For the past 3 years I have been actively blogging in the web/graphic design niche through the Vandelay Design blog and DesignM.ag. During that time the landscape of design blogging has changed considerably, as it seems new blogs are launched almost every hour, and a growing number are becoming highly profitable.
I recently sold DesignM.ag and through the process I’ve looked back at the last few years and what I have learned along the way. Blogging in a popular industry where hundreds or thousands of other blogs exist has pros and cons. In this post I’d like to cover five specific things that I have learned, hopefully it will be helpful to you as well.
While the context of this post is my experience blogging about topics related to design, I think they can easily apply to most other niches or industries that are very crowded.
1. Obstacles Present Opportunities
If you’ve read many articles with blogging tips I’m sure you’ve read that you should select a niche that doesn’t present much competition. In my opinion, depending on your strategy for growing and/or monetizing your blog you may be better off blogging in a more popular niche. If your blogging approach is to create a large number of small blogs that target specific words or phrases and are optimized to make money with AdSense or affiliate programs, then you’re probably better off avoiding crowded niches. On the other hand, if you’re looking to build an authority blog where you’ll be active and you’re willing to dedicate a significant amount of time, crowded niches present some powerful opportunities.
The reason for avoiding crowded niches is usually that it is easier to achieve top search engine rankings or to stand out from other bloggers, both true. But the obstacle of a crowded niche can be turned into a very profitable opportunity. Here are a few examples:
Link Building - Bloggers who want to attract lots of search traffic will need to make efforts to build links. This may include blogroll link exchanges, guest posting, article marketing, social media marketing, or simply focusing on writing great posts that naturally draw links. You may have the greatest content possible, but if there are only a handful of other blogs that cover topics related to yours, you may have a hard time building more than just a few links. In crowed niches like design, there are countless other blogs that could potentially link to you. Sure, it will be more difficult to stand out in this situation, but the potential is much higher.
Guest Posting – One of the best ways to build your profile and passively market your blog is by writing posts for other blogs. In crowded niches there are more opportunities for guest posting than you could ever pursue. If you’re willing to put in the time to write the content, you can get exposure and links through guest posts at a very large number of blogs.
Subscribers – Gaining subscribers is much easier when there are a lot of people interested in the topic that you are blogging about. In obscure niches you may have to work very hard just to pick up a few subscribers, which can be discouraging.
These are just a few examples, but the point is that with the right approach the obstacles of a crowded niche can be turned upside down and used for your benefit.
2. Traffic Potential is High
Crowded niches have a large number of blogs in part because there are so many readers out there looking for the content. With a huge potential audience comes the opportunity to reach very large traffic numbers. There are tons of design blogs that reach hundreds of thousands of page views each month, a number that may be almost unreachable in some niches.
3. Ad Prices May Be Lower
Finding advertisers in the design industry is not that difficult. Because the audience is so large there are plenty of companies with products and services that are looking to advertise to this audience, but there are also plenty of other advertising opportunities for them. With hundreds of blogs in the niche receiving decent numbers of visitors and page views, ad prices tend to be lower than they would be in other niches or industries with similar traffic numbers. If your ad prices are too high, the advertiser can simply go advertise somewhere else, and there are plenty of blogs willing to sell ad space at low rates. If there are only a few quality blogs in a particular niche, advertisers will have fewer options and higher ad prices can be justified. In the end, I think the higher traffic potential and lower ad prices basically even out.
4. Originality is a Challenge
Throughout my 3 years of design blogging I have followed a number of other blogs to stay aware of what is going on and the topics and types of posts that are being published by other blogs. As time has gone by and more blogs have launched it has become increasingly difficult to produce content that is unique and stands out from the content of other blogs. With far fewer blogs covering design-related topics a few years ago it was pretty easy to come up with ideas for posts that hadn’t been done yet, or to cover the same general topics in new and different ways. In a crowded niche though, originality is possibly the biggest challenge.
5. Commitment, Dedication, and Consistency or Critical
In a niche where there are a large number of blogs competing for the attention of readers, you must continue to work and develop the blog in order to be successful. Taking long breaks between posts or relaxing on the quality of content will be far more damaging than it could be in other niches, because readers can simply go to other blogs to get the information that you are not providing. As I look at the design blogs that have been successful over the past few years, consistency is the one thing that they all have in common.
What’s Your Opinion?
Do you blog in a crowded niche? If so, what have you learned from the experience?