The Blog Doctor: The Non-Niche Blog

The Blog Doctor is a (semi) regular column in which I attempt to answer your blogging questions based on my three years of experience.  I can only tell you what worked for me – I’m sure others have done it differently and maybe better. 

 

 

Everyone says that it’s important for your blog to have a focus, a theme, sort of a “thesis statement” that everything revolves around…but how do you figure out what that theme is? How do you know what to make your blog about? If you don’t want to follow a theme like weddings/food/crochet/etc., how do you figure out what to write about? Yourself?! This really confuses me.
Madison

It may be too specific but the ‘bits n bobs’ blog like your own is a obviously harder to ‘promote’ or find a target audience for. Is there possibly something in that? Maybe a ‘how to make your blog your own’? This is me being purely selfish though as I too am of the bits n bobs variety and feeling like a message in a bottle lost at sea. 😀 Anide I am, perhaps, not the most objective person when it comes to non-niche, non-themed blogging – probably because my blog’s theme appears to be “things that are awesome.”

I loooooove non-themed blogs and I wish there were more of them.  I love going to a blog every day and not knowing what’s going to be posted there.  Relationship advice?  Funny stories about cats?  Picnic recipes?  I want it all!  Really, I want something that’s like a magazine, curated and edited by someone awesome.  This is why I love Mighty Girl, Smaggle, Kyla Roma, Just A Titch so hard.  Also:  they’re excellent, funny writers.

Let’s talk about a few problems + solutions of non-themed blogging, shall we?

Problem: You miss out on some Big Deal themed sponsorships
We all know certain fashion brands that love the blogosphere, but if you’re not a ‘fashion’ blogger, they probably won’t come a-knocking.  And if you’re not a ‘beauty’ blogger, Lush and Clarisonic aren’t going to fall all over themselves advertising with you.  When those companies are googling blogs, your URL probably won’t come up.  Sad trombone.

Solution: Add some themed content
and make sure everybody knows it
You shouldn’t write about something just to court specific advertisers or readers, but themed series will give your blog a more cohesive, well-rounded feel. And it makes it more likely that advertisers and bloggers in that niche will link to you and advertise with you.

I wanted to feature more fashion-related stuff, promote community and awesome ladies of every flavor, so I started The Real Life Style Icon series.  I wanted to to add a bit of testosterone, so Dear Dude started writing for me.  I’m also working on another column that combines food and books (!!!) so I’ll have that base covered, too.  Hopefully, this makes Yes and Yes more fun for everybody.  It certainly makes it more fun for me which – let’s keep it real – is my primary goal.

Problem: Nobody knows what my blog is about when they get there

So your friends check your blog and they’re all “Wait. What? Today you’re talking about animal besties and yesterday you were talking about gender as a social construct. What the eff is going on here?”

Solution: Write a clever tagline, yo
Did you know that I’m a professional copywriter? Yes.  This is where I put on my copywriter hat for you (it looks like a Sherlock Holmes hat, just FYI).  If your blog is un-themed, then you probably need a clever tagline.  Something like “because everything is interesting” or “being awesome on the internet since 2007” or “food + fashion + funny cat videos.”  And yes, you can use any of those.  You’re welcome.

Problem:  My blog looks kind of messy
If you’re writing about every blessed thing under the sun (and posting pictures about every blessed thing under the sun) things can get visually overwhelming pretty quickly.

Solution: Stick with a color theme and keep your header and sidebar simple
Unless I’m doing a Notes From The Road post, I try to choose photos that use the same colors as my header – blues, pinks, muted oranges and greens.  If you refuse to be limited to a certain color palette, try a header/template that’s simple and crisp so all those colorful images will look bright and engaging, not busy and tacky.  Also!  Making your images the same width as the text column = lovely.  Full justified text = gorgeous.

Problem: Writing about everything ever makes me seem unprofessional

As established, I love non-themed blogs, but I do think it’s easier for a non-niche blog to seem more Livejournal and less WordPress.

Solution: Amp up the professionalism
It’s true: you may have to work a bit harder to be taken seriously if your blog doesn’t have a defined theme.  The markings of a ‘serious’ blogger?
* Posting regularly – the same time every day, the same days each week (behold the glory of the pre-scheduled post!)
*  Clean layout, nice images, lack of auto-playing music and blinking gifs
*  No 2,000-word posts railing against a co-worker none of us know
*  Typo-free posts

Problem:
There are a looooot of un-themed blogs out there, how can I stand out?

Fact.  The blogosphere is rife with ladies taking pictures of themselves in thrifted outfits, showing off their tattoos, promoting their etsy stores and taking pictures of their pets.  I know this because I read and love all those blogs!

Solution: Find and amplify your Point of Difference
I write a lot about long-term travel (also: anthropomorphism).  Maybe you live in South Africa.  Or you’re a 20-year-old mum.  Or you’re in med school.  Or you’re six feet tall.  You don’t have to make your point of difference the point of your blog, but play it up!  You’re an expert at that thing and I bet other people want to hear about it!

Next time, design + template resources and preventing your blog from looking ‘homemade’!

Do any of you have non-themed blogs?  Tips/tricks to share?

49 Comments

Sarah L

I think there is a missed title opportunity here. This series should totally be called "The Blog-tor." 😀

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Annika

Thank you! As a non-niche blog owner I really appreciate this post. And the cute unicorn drawing! I always thought that I could not start writing a blog because I did not have a great concept. This changed when I stumbled upon the first blog ever whose owner just wrote about everything and anything that was going on in her life. I have since found out that there are quite a few of us allrounders.

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Jo Darby

Comment like crazy.
 
I have a non-themed blog. It's still pretty young, I don't blog often enough, I'm making excuses.
 
One thing I have learned though is the more you comment the more opportunity you have to appeal to a wider audience and get some of the already successful bloggers (such as one Miss Sarah Von) on board.
 
Don't just comment for the sake of it, but if someone's blog resonates with you, chances are you'll have something going on over at your site that they might be interested in too.
 
What I want from blogging has totally changed since I began. I was operating as in a silo initially. Now I'm trying to get increasingly involved with other blogs and bloggers and it's awesome. I love all the different opinions and points of view, especially when I haven't considered them before. I now start c50% of conversations (excluding work convos) with the phrase "I read this blog post about…" because there are so many out there with awesome, thought provoking content.
 
If someone's challenged or inspired you through their writing, let them know in a comment or even right your own response on your blog. I've found a lot of non-themed blogs through other non-themed blogs. Recommendations are the best!
 
It's a wonderful upward spiral. Get involved.

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Magatha-May

great post – as a non specific blog owner I really love all the tips you give… now to just get off my ass and post a little more regularly

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Femke

Thanks for this post! As a relatively new blogger I love to blog about a LOT of things, just like I'm interested in a lot of things. I read lots of blogs and keep adding ideas, which makes my blog even more cluttered with subjects. But I can't stick to one or two subjects because that's just not me.

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Amy --- Just A Titch

First of all, thanks for the shout out, my dear.

I think the key to having a good, non-niche blog is writing about what excites you. While I enjoy getting gussied up, I am in no way a fashion blogger. I think it's tempting to see what others are doing and having success with and then trying to copy it, but I think the best writing is born out of your own passions and joys.

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caribbean princess

Thanks for this post Sarah 🙂 I am a many themed blogger with a rather long tagline which I should probably just shorten to all things fabulous and fun. I would get so easily bored if I had to write the same topic every day but I do have about 5 main categories on my blog so people can go straight to those if they want.

Really helpful post!

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Emily

Great insight. I've got a "themeless" blog (I guess), but I'm finding that the more I write, the more I know what I like to write about. It can be easy to fall back into writing about everyday happenings, but sometimes that is exactly what people like reading about.

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Lape

Hi,
I like reading non-niche blogs like yours 😉 and Nubby Twiglet's but when I was thinking about starting a blog, I didn't think I could maintain a bits-and-bobs one so I chose a theme that I am pretty crazy about – holidays. I did worry I was restricting myself but as time went by, I gave myself more lee-way and came up with regular features and I find now that I am really pleased with how far I've come with blogging. As with many things in life, the most important thing is to take the first step 🙂

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Lisa

I started my blog wanting it to not be too specific (so I could cover and write about whatever I want) but as time went on I sort of found a niche through what was working and what wasn't. Also through the articles people responded to the most and what I was complimented on. My blog has a very music centric title so people automatically assumed it is a music blog, and to some degree that is what it has become because of that, but I maintain that it is a music lifestyle blog, with a tagline that emphasizes the lifestyle aspect. There are enough straight up music blogs in my city, and I would get bored if I could only ever write album and concert reviews. Setting it up as a lifestyle blog with an overall musical theme helps me have a niche without being trapped in it. I have the freedom to write about my apartment (because it is creative and the decor is very music inspired) or write about my travels (as they usually include some musical aspect) so everything generally connects back. And sometimes I write about something totally random like make up or cooking class just because it's my blog and I can.
The main goal is to have a theme that connects with people, and reliable content/columns.

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Morag Lee

This was really helpful. I am a non-niche blogger and I think I'm only just beginning to get the hang of it. I totally agree on posting regularly btw!

Another thing I think is that your blog still seems to have a common theme in the sense a female magazine does. On your about page you say "ultimately yesandyes is about saying yes to things that makes you happy" and i think that almost is your niche. A very wide theme but a theme non-the-less. Am I making sense? x

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Rachael

I started out Glass of Win like this – it was non-niche and I really enjoyed it but after a while I felt scatter-brained and lost. I honed in on food (reviews, recipes and just plain love-for posts) and I'll have the occasional Event write-up and travel journal. I'd still like to welcome some personal interest (film/media) related posts back into the circle.
This is a great post – I kind of wish I had read something encouraging like this when I was still trying to make a go of a non-niche blog (to a bigger extent)

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Blue

This is so helpful! Just started blogging, and my blog is totally unthemed… My tagline is: "A blog about whatever I like. Just like the other millions out there.", which I hope makes the lack of theme clear… But after reading this, I think I will introduce themed days, so that fashion will be on Mondays, being a better person on Tuesdays, and so on. Need to work on that idea a little more, but thank you for the suggestion!

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Lex

Hey there. Thanks for the post. I just started a blog about a week ago (I was inspired to start blogging after reading your blog). I kind of liked the idea of a niche but now I'm not so sure about my writings for it.

Though I may sway to your solution of having some themed content.

The blog is about, pretty much growing up. I'm 17 a senior in high school, and on the road to growing up. At first I knew what that would look like, but I forgot I have no concentration and I want to write everything. Though I think to stick with the theme I might start a section called "Girl Talk". I have two younger sisters and I have always liked the idea of reaching out to young girls, so I think girl talk is gonna be sort of a "learner's manual of puberty". Also, maybe posts on finding colleges and stuff. And then whatever else I may feel like writing.

Anyway, thanks for the post, it was helpful.

(Btw, sorry this comment is all over the place)

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nova

Oh yeah, I have a real non-themed blog. The only feature I have now is "Things I Love Thursday" which is just an excuse to post things I found on the internet that are cool.

There's no way I could just pick a topic and talk about it day in and day out. BORING!!

I say, don't worry about getting sponsors or followers or whatever, just be you. Unless you're in it for the money, then I have no advice at all.

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Anna

Great post and much appreciated series! OK so I'm not speaking as a professional or smashing success by any means, but here's my take: I found it was easier to pick a niche when I first started but knew I could broaden or change it at some point if I wanted to. I think there can be this pressure to pick the perfect title, format, design, topic, etc. from the get-go, when really experimenting is a great way to figure out what works (for both you and your potential audience). And I love Sarah's point that it's all about what's fun for you in the end – so try stuff, and see what makes you happy!

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Hannah

Thank you for this post. I truth is that a while back I thought that my blog didn't have a niche and now, I think it has more of a niche than ever. First, I am a blogger in Panama, I write about cultural, environmental, and social themes that all have some connection to Panama (and Latin America). Sometimes, I feel like we write about too many different types of topics and sometimes we get too personal and yet, we have this thing that we are unique because we are Panamanian Bloggers.

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Pooja

I do not have a particular theme for my blog too. I find it too boring to stick to a topic. And I do like to read blogs like yours, Life of Something New, etc, where I have an element of surprise each time a new post is published. But that is not to say that themed blogs aren't cool. I do follow a few fashion blogs, just to satisfy my "girly"ness, and astrology blogs, humor blogs, etc.

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Smaggle

Thanks for the mention gorgeous creature.

I agree.

I look at my blog as a conversation with my readers. Do they always want to talk about clothes? No. Do they always want to talk about shoes? Hells no.

Sometimes you need to talk about your living situation, or want dinner ideas or you simply want some inspiration.

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The Naked Redhead

I think you can talk about whatever the hell you want, as long as your tone and overall quality is consistent. I think that's what you do here on Yes and Yes. I think that's why I read blogs like Dooce, too. Make the writing awesome, have fantastic conversations, be honest and build a community of cool people. And oh yeah…do it because you LOVE it, non-themed or no.

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glitnir76

Great post! As a non-themed blogger myself, I'll be sure to address those points!

Categories have definitely helped organize my blog and helps guide people to their area of interest.

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Diana

Thank you for writing this post! I've gradually shifted my blog over the past year from being a daily outfit blog to a non-niche blog. There's several topics that I write about a lot (style, sustainability, bentos, health, Etsy) but there's not one individual thing. I recently changed my tagline to " a little bit of this and that for the optimistic soul" and I'm so glad I did. It really sums up the tone of my blog, since I prefer to keep a positive perspective.

Thanks for re-affirming that I made the right choice. I was worried at first about losing readers, but now I enjoy writing my blog more than ever.

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Lylim | Flyleaf - Thoughts on reading, writing and the general confusion of twentysomething life

I loved this post! When I first started my blog I spent so much time worrying about having a niche that I didn't realise that for me, blogging in a niche felt really boring and forced.

Maybe someday the topics I'll want to write about will become more streamlined and a niche will be naturally born, but for now I'm just letting myself blog about anything that's interesting, magpie-style. So this post was immensely reassuring and I totally agree with having a point of differentiation even if you don't make that the focus of your blog.

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Kristina Larson

Thanks for the tips! I too am interested in such a wide variety of topics that when I started blogging, I was horrified by the thought of carving out just one little niche. Boring! People are multifaceted and multidimensional, so why shouldn't our blogs be?

Along the way, I've discovered that my posts, while spanning a large variety of topics, often have the same overarching themes: living a creative, simple, and inspired life.

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Kayla

Nice post. Totally agree with the point that you made about wanting to read blogs that come across like a magazine. I think this is what I was hoping to achieve when I set up a blog recently – a style and tone that was interesting for people, rather than one specific theme.

To give myself a little focus, I made a list of things that interest & excite me (primarily food, fashion, film & festivals, but also sometimes flowers, felines, funny stuff from the internet etc). I noticed that it all started with the letter F- so I titled the blog 'the F tangent' and have used that as a rough guide for what I post on.

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Sarah Rooftops

My blog is non-theme because I'm writing it for fun, for me, rather than to rake in the pennies. Which is not to say that pennies wouldn't be nice… It hasn't stopped a handful of friendly people from coming back to read it time and time again, though, which I put down to showing my personality rather than writing to a formula.

That said, every time I do an outfit post I get paranoid people think I'm trying to be a fashion blogger; every time I do a craft posts I get paranoid etc etc etc… Perhaps I'm just non-theme because I don't feel ready to compete with the big girls?!

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Lex

My question, is how do you come up with a name for something non-niche? I feel like the name of your blog should kind tell people what it's about. Then again, Yes and Yes really gives no indication to what this blog is, except a positive blog.

So, how do you name a non-niche blog?

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Jess

This blog post is amazing! I am a non-theme blogger, and Thank you! This post gave me inspiration and motivation, that they are people out there that are interested in the random words, the random posts that i feel like posting, things that matter to me actually interest and matter to other people.

Thank you heaps! Just what I needed! Your awesome!

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Yume Ninja

Thanks so much for this helpful post! I used to struggle with this arbitrary idea that I had to create a theme for my blog too, but now I just write about whatever I like.

I'm always inspired by your blog, you keep me motivated and clear headed.

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Ozio Media

I think non-themed blogs can work as long as you make them your own. It’s easy to see when a blogger is struggling to find their claim to fame in the blogging world through their writing. If you write about topics you are passionate about in a way that people enjoy, there will always be someone out there wanting to read your work.

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Bethany Beach Real Estate

I must admit that i never thought about some of the ideas that you shared in this post, like the taglines and to not make a niche blog.

It's harder with a non-niche blog, but if you manage to rank it high you might have visitors from different niches and will bring you a lot of traffic.

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Engagement Invitations

Wow! I do agree with this blog. It's so happened that most bloggers can freely write in a non-themed blogs. And, sometimes this is one of the ways for them to also share their best insights. Thanks for sharing this wide and reasonable thought of insight.

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lovestations

I have to admit this content was very worthwhile. I discovered you with a google search and was rather stunned at your rank for this article.

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zuanseouk

Very great ideas friend! A perfect doctor to provide perfect solution! Many blogs are lacking there core concepts and that is the reason for their unsuccessful blogging career.

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Anu Priya

That's awesome friend! Your way of writing is so kind and even I love non-themed blogs. And apart from my niche, i used to love journals the most.

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Missy Davis

Great tips! I’ve recently started a blog and yes! I too have many different interests, no niche. I’ve been looking up blogs without niches and they’ve been most inspiring. Those idiots on Facebook don’t know what they’re talkin ’bout!!

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Anonymous

Thanks for the great tips! I love the concepts of your blog and am glad to know that I wasn’t crazy for wanting to create a “non-niche” blog 🙂

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