Niche blogging is more popular than ever before, and with so much buzz going around you may have wondered at one point or another, what’s all the fuss about? Or perhaps, is blogging right for me?
Building a successful blog isn’t easy, but it is totally worth the time and effort. Blogging can be a beneficial pursuit for almost anyone — and though it may be difficult, with a good amount of hard work you can make it happen.
To help you out, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide that will take you from picking a name, all the way through to posting your first post and building a flourishing readership.
What is a Niche Blog?
In its simplest form, a niche blog is any blog that focuses on one particular topic or area of interest. A blog that discusses pet care, for example, is a niche blog, as is a blog that focuses on fashion or fantasy books. You can think of a niche as your blog’s genre.
It’s more complicated than that, of course. A niche may be a topic — but it is more than that as well. Niches are specialized segments within communities, with their own built-in audience, tone, and overall vibe.
Why Would You Want to Start One?
Niche blogs are powerful. This is because they are deeply entrenched in community, and because they are uniquely suited to positioning you as an expert on a topic.
It is easier to build a successful blog when it is focused on a specific niche for two reasons. First, writing within a niche helps your readers know what to expect from your blog. If they know what to expect, they are more likely to come back to you when they want to read about a particular topic. Second, writing within a niche will help you grow your readership because, as we already mentioned, niches have built-in communities.
Expand Your Brand
When you start a blog within a particular community, you are positioning yourself as an expert in that topic. This is beneficial even if you never make a dime from your blog. By positioning yourself as an expert in a topic, you will forever have a body of work that you can show future employers — or anyone really. Your blog will become proof of your expertise — whether anyone reads it or not. The value of this shouldn’t be overlooked, and is a perfect example of how blogging can be beneficial to anyone, even if it never makes it past the “hobby” stage.
Making Money with a Niche Blog
There are a lot of ways to make money through blogging, but three of the most popular — especially with niche sites — are sidebar ads, sponsored content and affiliate links.
Selling ad space isn’t a new idea for generating revenue — in fact, newspapers and magazines have been using this strategy for years. With sidebar ads (or ads placed anywhere on your site), you are essentially selling square-footage on your blog. Brands will pay you a monthly fee (generally depending on the amount of readers you have) to display an ad on your site. You can run ads by working directly with brands (more difficult, but more profitable as well), or you can work with a program like Google AdSense. Google AdSense is extremely easy to use and install on your site, but at a few cents per ad click, it takes a lot of views to generate meaningful income.
Sponsored content is like an ad within your writing itself. Basically, with sponsored content, you are getting paid for writing about and promoting a product. This works best if you only promote products that make sense for your blog. Promoting cleaning products on a blog about fishing, for example, will likely cause your readers to lose trust in you. On the other hand, accepting sponsored content that is genuinely helpful to your readers is beneficial to everyone. You get paid, the brand gets eyeballs, and your readers get to learn about a great new product (or service) that they are actually interested in.
Affiliate marketing is an extremely popular way to earn income in the niche blogosphere. Earning money through affiliate marketing can look a little like sidebar ads or sponsored content, but it works in a slightly different way. With affiliate marketing, you make money by sharing links or ads with your readers. It works like this: you recommend a product or service, and provide a link. If one of your readers clicks that link and makes a purchase, you make a small commission from the sale.
Have we convinced you to start a blog yet? Or at least seriously consider it? Now that you’ve made the decision, it is time to get into the nitty-gritty. Actually starting the thing.
1. Finding Your Niche (What Do You Want to Write About?)
The first step to starting up an awesome blog is deciding on your topic. Above, we talked about what a niche is, and why you should choose one. In this section, we will move beyond that, and help you figure out how to nail down and refine your blog’s focus.
So how do you choose what to write about? Ideally, the niche you choose should be something you are PASSIONATE about — but it doesn’t have to be. With millions of niches out there for you to choose from, how do you go about picking the one that’s right for you?
Make a List
Start by making a simple list. Ask yourself: What are my passions? Do have hobbies? What sort of things do I find interesting? What do I have professional expertise in — or would like to build expertise in?
Write these things down. This will be the start of your brainstorming session. Feel free to add anything else that you might enjoy writing about. The goal here is to come up with as many possibilities as you can.
After you have a list of potential niches, it is time to start researching them. Start by reading some blogs in the niches you’ve brainstormed. Try to get a feel for the community that already exists for each of them. Which ones can you imagine yourself taking part in?
After getting a general feel for your potential niches, their audiences, and the content that is already out there, it is time to consider your goal for this blog. Are you looking to position yourself as an expert in a topic, or grow your professional portfolio? Are you hoping to start a hobby blog that will allow you to refine your writing skills and learn about your interests or passions? Or are you wanting to earn a side income through affiliate marketing, sponsored content, or by selling ad space?
Each of these goals will direct you towards different niches. Some niches, for example, are better than others for making affiliate income. Others are suited for sponsored content, and others for selling ad space (that’s not to say that you can’t use all three strategies on the same blog, just that some niches are better suited to specific income options).
If your main goal is to build expertise or learn about one of your passions, your choice will largely be made for you. If you are wanting to use your blog to generate side income, however, you will have to do a bit more research to choose the best niche for you.
When we set out to create SideHustle.com, our focus was extremely concentrated. It started with the concept, which was then solidified by the domain name. The content then followed suit from there. I think it’s important to stay true to scope of what you’ve set out to achieve. Pivoting too much or experimenting with content that’s outside of what your base has grown to appreciate can quickly alienate and/or confuse an audience of loyal followers.
During your research, you will want to examine the opportunities that exist for each of your potential niches. For example, if you are considering writing a beauty blog and posting product reviews, you should research how many beauty companies have affiliate programs. If you are wanting to write a fashion blog and do a lot of sponsored content, find other blogs in that niche and figure out who sponsors them and how they got those sponsorships.
Understand Your Target
Ideally, you should choose a niche that has a lot of potential opportunities, but not a lot of competition. An obscure niche may be difficult to monetize because there are fewer companies looking for advertisement opportunities. On the flip side, it is extremely difficult to become noticed and generate a readership large enough to attract the pocketbooks of brands when you are writing in an already over-saturated niche. Finding that sweet spot takes time, but it is well worth the effort involved.
2. Naming Your Blog and Domain
Trying to pick that perfect name for your shiny new blog can be intimidating. After all, your name is the first thing that your potential audience will see, and even be a deciding factor in whether someone will click over to your site. Your blog’s name is incredibly important because it helps readers know what to expect from your blog.
At the same time, your blog name is something that you can always change in the future, so don’t let this detail hang you up. If you find yourself putting off starting your blog because you haven’t found that “perfect” name, it’s okay to pick something “good enough,” and come back later to change it when/if you come up with something better.
What’s in a Name?
Once you have a few options, try saying them out loud. Can you imagine saying the name to people? Does it sound like something you would be proud of? You can also take your options to your family and friends. Say each potential name out loud to them and ask them what they think. What emotion does the name evoke? What type of content do they think they would find on a blog with that name? This sort of data is useful, even if the people you are asking aren’t part of your ideal audience.
Once you’ve picked a name, you will want to purchase your domain name. Your domain name should match your blog name as closely as possible, be easy to spell, and be memorable. You can purchase your domain name separately on sites like , or you can purchase a domain name through your hosting provider.
3. Choosing a Platform
The platform you choose (called a CMS or Content Management System) is where you will be writing, formatting, and publishing your blog posts. A good CMS is easy to use and will help you design your blog.
The most popular CMS is WordPress. Over 60% of blogs, use it, including this one! WordPress is easy to use, offers a lot of different customization options, and is a great option if you are looking to monetize your site.
I’ve been using Wordpress for nearly 15 years. When the time came to consider the platform of choice for our side hustle site, the decision came rather easy to me. There’s a reason that Wordpress makes up nearly 25% of ALL websites out there today. That wasn’t a fluke or accident. They make a fundamentally superior product that can be easily configured and scaled. It was one less thing that we needed to think about in our side hustle journey, so we just went that path and haven’t thought about it since.
It is important to note that WordPress comes in two forms: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The .com form of the site is completely free to use, and you don’t have to worry about finding a host. It has extremely limited monetization options, however, isn’t very customizable, and doesn’t allow you to choose a custom domain name. In fact, when you use wordpress.com, you don’t actually own your site at all. This means that your site can be taken down for any reason, and your content has to follow their guidelines.
WordPress.org is open source software created by WordPress. It is completely free to use, however it is self-hosted, which means that you will have to find (and pay for) a hosting provider. The benefit to the .org form of WordPress is that it is fully customizable. With wordpress.org, you are free to do whatever you want, whether that be running ads, customizing with themes and/or plugins, or even jumping into the HTML and CSS code and building your site from the ground up.
There are other options of course, aside from WordPress. Some options include Medium, Wix, Squarespace, and Blogger. Keep in mind that though free CMS platforms are tempting, they are all limited in one way or another, and most free options allow little (if any) monetization efforts on your site.
4. Finding a Hosting Provider
If your domain name is your website’s address, then your hosting provider is its house. This is where your site lives in cyberspace. Hosts specialize in storing websites. If you are going with a free site (like Medium or the .com version of WordPress), you don’t need to worry about finding a web host because your site will be stored on the CMS server. If you decide to go with WordPress.org, however, you will need to pick a host.
There are a lot of hosting options out there, and you can always move your blog if you don’t like the one you choose. When choosing a host, you want to compare the uptime (the percentage of time your website is up and running), the load time (how fast your site is), and the Customer Support available. Some of the most popular hosting providers include:
Honestly, because it’s a commoditized service there’s a lot of competition out there to choose from. I’d probably start with a list of hosting providers that have been around for a noteworthy period of time. That would suggest they are an established entity that have already worked out all of their technical kinks. From there, I would try out a couple providers to see which interface you feel most comfortable with. Test out the customer service to get a sense of the quality of support you receive as that’ll probably be indicative of what you should expect over time. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t overthink hosting in the early stages of starting your blog. Get something established that suits your budget and focus on the content before all else.
5. Choosing a Theme and Customizing Your Site
Let’s face it. Design matters. The design of your blog is one of the first impressions that new, potential readers will get of your site. Having a confusing, unattractive design is one of the top reasons that readers will give your blog a pass. Good designs build trust, and help to establish the brand you are trying to create. And since your goal is to grow your readership, having a well-designed blog should be a top priority.
If you’ve decided to go with WordPress.org over a free CMS, you will have, quite literally, thousands of pre-made, customizable themes to choose from. There are a lot of great free themes out there, and paid themes are generally relatively affordable.
Not sure what kind of look you should go for? Check out other blogs in your niche and pay attention to the elements you like (and the ones you don’t). And remember that good design is about more than looks — good design is functional and easy to navigate as well.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Responsiveness: People will be viewing your blog on different devices, so it is extremely important that you pick a theme that is mobile friendly.
- Simplicity: Simple is often best. Make sure you don’t choose a “cool” looking theme that compromises readability.
- Plugins: Plugins are important because they allow you to add extra features to your blog. Make sure the theme you pick supports the most popular ones.
- Support: Sometimes things go wrong. When they do, having good support is vital to getting your blog back online. Not all theme developers offer support, so this is something to be aware of when you are making your choice.
Once you’ve picked a theme, you can use plugins to further customize your blog. If there is a feature you want, there is probably a plugin for it. It is important to keep in mind, however, that too many plugins will slow down your load time, so make sure you use them wisely.
If you don’t have the technical chops to tailor a theme to your exact design specifications, fear not. You can easily hire a freelance developer on sites, like Upwork, for a couple hundred dollars to create what you need. It’s reasonably priced, and can save you a lot of time and frustration versus just trying to figure it out on your own. Of course, budget is the limiting factor here, but figured we’d share this option for those that have the ability to shell out some cash for the extra help.
6. Adding the Essentials
Before your blog goes live, there are some essential pages that you will want to make sure you have. The first of these is an About page. Your About page should help potential readers get to know you and your blog, as well as set the general tone for your site. Don’t be afraid to get personal. Readers love to feel like they know the person behind the words they read.
Calls to Action
Another essential is your Contact page. This page can be a simple or as complicated as you want. At the very least, you should include an email address and your social profiles (Twitter, Instagram, etc.). You can even add a contact form to make things easier for your readers and keep your personal info protected.
If you are planning on working with sponsors at some point down the line, you should include a “Work with Me” section on your Contact page. This will serve two purposes. The first, is that it will give interested brands a way to get in contact with you. The second, is that it will let brands know that you are interested in working with sponsors.
7. Develop Your Content Strategy
Your content strategy is simply an actionable plan for achieving the goals you have already set. The more time you spend planning, the more prepared you will be during those inevitable times when you are feeling unmotivated, stuck, or don’t know what to write about.
Before your blog ever goes live, you should make sure you have a backlog of post ideas ready to go. Research keywords, brainstorm topics, and think on the type of content your ideal reader would find interesting or useful. Write this all down. The more ideas you have, the better. Eventually, you can refine your list, combining similar topics and eliminating things that don’t quite fit.
Back Log and Scheduling
After you’ve created a solid list of post ideas, you can use an editorial calendar to schedule your posts. This is simpler than it sounds. Basically, all you need to do to create an editorial calendar is to decide how often you want to post (every Wednesday, three times a week, etc.), and fill in a calendar with your post ideas. Google calendar works great for this, but you can also use a planner, or even a simple wall calendar.
While it isn’t necessary, having several posts already written and published will help generate momentum and views when you launch. It will also provide your readers the instant gratification they crave, which will in turn make them more likely to come back for more.
When developing your content strategy, you should also decide whether you will be writing all the posts yourself, or if you want to hire writers to create content for you.
Of course, you should start with writing your own content to set the style and tone of what your blog is trying to become. Once you get that baseline in place, and an ongoing cadence, you might be inclined to go down the path of hiring a stable of writers. This is very tricky, regardless of how good a person’s credentials look online. My advice would be to hire a writer initially for a single test article (1,500 words). Provide basic content guidelines and a quasi-aggressive timeline. If they can hit the quality and time line, awesome, they’ve earned a shot at being part of the writing rotation. If not, that’s as far as they go. I can work with helping writers improve their quality and voice over time. What I can’t tolerate is a writer that has no sense of urgency when it comes to deadlines. You shouldn’t either.
8. Commit to a Regular Publishing Schedule
Posting regularly is perhaps the best thing you can do to bring readers to your blog. Posting consistently brings readers to your blog because they know when to look for new posts. If you post every Wednesday, for example, your readers will know to check in. Consistency will also help you stay on the top of their mind and keep them from forgetting about your blog. Consistency will also help keep you honest, and help you build the habit of writing.
Trust The Process
You don’t have to post every day to have a successful blog. What is more important is that you pick a schedule that you can stick with — whether that be once a month, once a week, or three times a week. Commit to a minimum, and stick to it like glue.
9. Use Great Photos and Graphics
Design isn’t the only thing that affects how your blog looks. Having great photos and graphics will also help your blog stand out and look professional. Readers love beautiful images, and visual elements can really help break up walls of text.
If you aren’t a photographer or a designer, there are many user-friendly and free resources that you can use. For photography, Unsplash is a great place to find high quality, free-to-use pictures. You can also find free images on Pixabay or Wikimedia Commons.
For graphics, Canva is an easy-to-use, intuitive option. It is an online design tool that is drag and drop and features a lot of pre-made templates.
10. Promoting Your Posts
So you’ve started a blog, written and published some posts, but how do you actually get people to read it? That is the goal, after all.
To have a successful blog, you should be spending as much time promoting your posts as you spend writing them. Here are a few promotion ideas to get you started:
There are a lot of social media platforms out there, so you will need to mess around with them to figure out what works best for you. Focus on the big three first (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). In general, Facebook is best for videos and curated content, Instagram is best for high quality images and visual content, and Twitter is great for building relationships and communicating with your audience, as well as posting news updates.
Forums and Message Boards:
Engaging with online communities built around your niche is a great way to get noticed. Make sure you focus on providing value — don’t just dump your links and leave. Nothing will ruin your credibility faster than link dropping without taking the time to build relationships.
Guest posting on other blogs with established audiences is a wonderful way to get your name out there. If you aren’t sure where to post, try a simple google search. “Your niche” + “guest post” or “write for us” should bring up several options. In the beginning you may have to target blogs with smaller audiences, but in time you can work your way up to blogging for larger sites.
Entrepreneur and now full-time Blogger, Ryan Robinson, embodies the ideal upside case study for getting into blogging as a side hustle. For years he’s run a blog on the side while holding down a full time job. His blog covers a wide range of topics, but the most successful aspects of his blog basically cover how to successfully run a blog, ironically enough. In addition to very dense and well written articles, he’ll regularly publishes what he refers to as “income reports” that showcase how well his blog has been doing month over month. One of his recent income reports was called: Blog Income Report for July 2019: How I Earned $39,448.92 Blogging (This Month). Impressive, right?
I tend to air on the side of skeptical when I see numbers publicly shared like this, especially when they can’t truly be verified, but they do seem to hold water. Plus, there’s clearly benefit to sharing these numbers publicly for a variety of reasons. Why?
Well, a major part of his revenue stream comes from affiliate marketing. He’s openly sharing which affiliates are paying out the most each and every month. That in itself draws attention to those specific services (potentially driving up his own numbers), AND (for those looking monetize their own blogs) you can see where some might want to try to use the same affiliates that have worked so well for himself. There’s a potential positive compounding effect using this technique. Finally, the title of “income reports and some high number” makes for incredible click-bait, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s probably why you’ve come to this article itself.
Ryan’s mastered his craft beautifully, which can serve as a wonderful barometer of what’s possible for yourself. The opportunity is certainly there, but there are many ways to define success, so think outside the box. Follow the fundamentals to get started, but it’s your niche interests that will set apart from the rest of the pack.
Blogging isn’t easy work, but it can be a great side hustle, or even just a fun hobby. Though the process may seem daunting, it is actually simpler than you might think. The truth is, anyone can start a blog, and we believe that everyone should.