Niche, USP, point of difference… call it what you like but in today’s crowded blogosphere you definitely need to stand out! Here are 7 reasons why your blog needs a USP…
On any given day, get me on the right topic (pretty much anything to do with blogging!) and you will find I get maybe just a little overexcited… But right now, I am even more hyper than usual.
I am just back from Blog On – a blogging conference in Manchester, UK and brim full of new ideas, projects and general blogging enthusiasm.
But the thing I am perhaps most fired up about right now is the importance of defining and owning your blogging niche – and making sure that that niche is something a little different, if you truly want to stand out from the crowd and make sure your blog gets noticed.
Why am I so fired up?
Well to be honest, I get a little bit fired up about this subject at the best of times. After 4 years studying business at university and spending the early part of my working life in marketing, choosing, defining and owning your niche is something that is a bit of a no-brainer for me!
But I am especially fired up right now, because it was one of the clearest messages to come out of the conference. 3 out of the 4 seminars I went to at Blog On very explicitly underlined the importance of having a well-defined niche / USP (unique selling point). (And this was despite the fact that these talks covered areas as diverse as SEO, PR and building a tribe!)
But WHY is niching down so important? Here are 7 reasons why your blog needs a USP…
1. A USP will get you noticed
Blogging has positively EXPLODED in the last few years and the blogosphere is starting to get really rather crowded! If you want your blog to be a success, you need to stand out from the crowd. One of the best and easiest ways to do that is to pick a niche that’s different to what everyone else is doing. It’s much easier to stand out as a blogger if what you are blogging about is unlike what everyone else is blogging about.
This is especially true if you are interested in attracting media attention. One of the speakers at the conference, Claire Gamble a PR strategist and coach at Unhooked Communications, very much underlined this in her seminar on PR for Bloggers. She was very clear that having a well-defined niche is much more likely to open doors for you to comment and be featured in the media, than if you try to be a ‘jack of all trades’. Her advice is to pick one or two ‘hot topics’ – areas that you focus on in your blog and which are likely to be of interest to the media, and really OWN those hot topics.
2. A USP will help you attract the right kind of followers
It’s a common misconception that to attract lots of people to your blog, you should write about lots of different things. Actually, quite the opposite is true. People desperately want to belong to a tribe, to identify with a group of like-minded individuals. Having a tight niche will help people who identify with the message of your blog to feel like they are in the right place. As a result, they are much more likely to read more of your content, subscribe to your mailing list and share your stuff with other likeminded potential followers.
The tighter and more specific your niche, the more loyal and devoted your fans will be and the more of an advocate they will be for you and your blog. One of the points from the conference that really stood out for me was when Bex Bland, an adventure blogger and founder of the #LoveHerWild community, talked about the concept of 1000 true fans. Her point was that to be successful, you only need 1000 true fans. It’s a concept I’ve heard before, but one that really struck me when she said it.
Too often as bloggers we are prone to try and attract millions of people to our blogs – and try to do that by appealing to as many people as possible, when actually the path to success is much more likely to be found in focusing on a really tight niche and attracting a smaller number of really devoted fans. Having a small number of truly devoted fans is much more of an asset than having a large number of only vaguely interested readers. True fans will hang on to your every word, buy your stuff, go to your events and, crucially, spread the word, gaining you even more loyal fans in the long run!
3. A USP will help your SEO
Not only will having a USP help you get noticed and help you attract loyal fans, but it will also help with search engine optimisation (SEO). Getting good at SEO is becoming more and more important for bloggers who want their blogs to grow. Especially if you want your blog to earn passive income via well paid ads on your site.
Operating in a tight, well defined niche will help Google to understand your blog better and help you develop ‘topical authority’. The idea of topical authority is that Google sees that, over time you are producing a lot of posts on one particular topic and, if those posts are popular with Google’s users, Google will start to see you as an authority in that area and so your blog posts on that topic will perform better in search results as a result.
This concept of authority is becoming ever more important in SEO. Search engines want to make sure that the websites they send their searchers to are written by ‘experts’. Focusing on one narrow niche will help you become an expert in that area, in a way that you could never hope to be if you try to write about a bit of everything. By ‘niching down’ you are developing ‘EAT’ (Expertise, Authority, Trust) – something crucial if you want to perform well in search engines.
Also, as we have seen above, developing that USP opens up opportunities to further corroborate that expertise and authority, by being featured in the media, gaining backlinks etc. which will in turn gives even more evidence to search engines that you are a trustworthy and authoritative source on that topic, resulting in a further bump up the search engine results – and this obviously becomes a virtuous circle.
In her talk on common SEO mistakes at the Blog On conference, Cerys Parker of Rainy Day Mum gave a very practical way to reinforce that EAT and boost your SEO. Her suggestion was to create what she calls ‘hub pages’ (I call them cornerstone content) – in depth articles which you write on your key topics. These ‘hub pages’ will help reinforce your authority on that topic (both in the eyes of your readers and search engines), which will in turn boost your SEO and help you rank for more competitive search terms.
4. A USP will help you build a tribe
Not only will having a USP help you attract the right kind of readers and followers, it will also help you to build a tribe. Community is a big trend in social media right now and especially with Facebook groups. Facebook loves groups and is investing heavily into them. Many bloggers are seeing a real decline in the reach and effectiveness of their Facebook pages, but at the same time seeing their Facebook groups soar.
Bex Bland, really illustrated this well in her talk at Blog On. She began her talk by asking who among us had interacted with the Blog On Facebook group – and of course the majority of us had. She then asked who had interacted with the Blog On Facebook page. Not a single hand went up!
This really goes to that idea that people want a place to ‘belong’ and connect with other like-minded individuals. And it’s pretty obvious that people will be far more eager to join and interact in a group of people that is excited by a very tight niche than one which is very loose and vague. And especially if that tight niche is something that is currently not being served.
Bex gave a great example of this in her session, sharing how she was able to build a vibrant and committed community with her Facebook Group ‘Love Her Wild’ – a group specifically aimed at women who were interested in adventuring. As well as being a pretty specific niche, at the time when she created her group, no one else was focusing on specifically women in adventuring, giving her a great USP. Her ‘Love Her Wild’ Facebook group is now 6000 + members strong (incidentally twice the size of her Facebook page!).
I have very much seen this with my own Facebook group too. The Productive Blogging Community is a wonderful community of bloggers who are passionate about growing successful blogs and connecting with other bloggers. It’s grown into an incredibly supportive and friendly group where bloggers (and wannabe bloggers) feel comfortable to ask questions, share tips and generally chat with like-minded people about blogging and productivity. And it’s hands down the best thing I’ve done since starting Productive Blogging. But I would never have been able to build this incredible group, if I hadn’t had a clear USP and a clear purpose for the group… something which other bloggers really wanted to be a part of.
5. A USP will help you become a ‘go to’ expert
Focusing on a narrow niche that few (if any) other bloggers are operating in will inevitably make you a ‘go to’ expert on that topic – especially if you have a vibrant tribe of people who are constantly tooting your horn! By focusing on a tight niche and owning that niche, you will inevitably become an authority on that subject, which in turn is likely to throw up all kinds of opportunities in the media, for awards, for speaking at events, for working with brands… all things which will grow your blog’s profile and make you even more of an expert.
This was a point that both Claire and Bex were eager to stress in their talks. Claire shared how being a ‘go to expert’ really known for one ‘hot topic’ is much more likely to open up PR opportunities than being a ‘jack of all trades’, blogging about a little bit of everything. And that this usually has a snowball effect with one opportunity leading to another and another…
Bex shared that her USP, focusing on adventuring for women, has helped her win awards, speak at events (something which she now gets paid to do), get sponsorships and get featured in the media. And she has very much experienced that snowball effect for herself with each opportunity opening up doors for others.
6. A USP will help you get better opportunities with brands
Brands too understand the value of being a ‘go to expert’ and an authority in a tight niche – especially if that comes with a dedicated and loyal community of true fans! A small blog whose audience are all passionate about one particular tight niche – the very niche the product is aimed at, is far more valuable to a brand than a larger blog that has a much less focused niche and a much less loyal and engaged readership.
I have very much seen this in action with my food blog, Easy Peasy Foodie. Virtually all the opportunities I have got with brands are precisely because I have a clear niche and a clear message (that making great tasting, stress-free, family-friendly food from scratch every night is totally possible…even on busy weeknights!) and because all my recipes and meal plans are in alignment with that message.
7. A USP will help your blog be successful
Operating in a tight niche is more likely to make your blog a success in the long run – however you personally define success. A tight niche will help your blog stand out in an increasingly crowded blogging scene, help you develop real authority, expertise and trust in that field, help you get onto page 1 of Google, help you grow a passionate and loyal following, open up PR opportunities, help you spread your message further and grow a strong brand, and ultimately, of course, help you earn more money from your blogging activities. Remember, there’s a reason why they say ‘the riches are in the niches’!
Convinced you need to niche down but not sure where to start?
Head over to my post on how to choose the right niche for your blog. Although originally written for new bloggers, this post is still very relevant to established bloggers who want to tighten up their niche and develop a clear USP. Still a bit stuck? Head over to the Productive Blogging Community and we’ll help you out!
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