For most of us who start writing, being creative and growing our writing skills are important. However, we still want to build an audience and build relationships. I’ve spent so much time reading “SEO-style” advice about “finding niches” and keyword research, but it’s just not the right fit for a personal and creative blog.
Somewhere between churning out answers to calculated “long-tailed keywords” and following our heart’s desire, there must be an alternative way to build relationships.
We want to write well and create content we’re proud of, without being dictated to by algorithms and search-shaming. So here’s how you (should!) build an audience with a personal blog, without keyword research!
What does success look like in Personal blogging?
The main difference between a personal blog compared to an informational blogs is creative freedom. When you look for advice on building an audience, it’s easy to get lost in advice built for blogging for money, not a personal brand. Advice like optimising doesn’t work for a creative, heartfelt personal brand, and can feel cynical.
Does being creative mean sacrificing visibility, or is there another way? A big obstacle is the advice of “building a niche” – how can you explore your creativity whilst staying inside a narrow area of “expertise”?
Niches don’t make sense for personal brands, as our goal isn’t always direct search engine optimisation. We need is a different perspective, specifically about successful personal brands.
Successful personal bloggers don’t try to cajole their content into a search-engine-approved category, but they still stand out and get readers. Like in real life, sharing your authentic self isn’t a guarantee of relationship building, and you won’t automatically stand out to readers. Successful bloggers stand out because of their excellent writing, and clear personal branding.
How to Build a Personal Niche for a Creative Blog
An advantage for running a successful personal blog is knowing yourself. This helps you be confident about which parts of your life you’d like to share, and create an overall consistent experience for readers. For example, a “mummy blogger” is much more than a mother, but decides to write about motherhood because she enjoys it and knows other mums will be interested.
When you flit between topics and subjects – like I’m guilty of! – you create a confusing tone and environment for readers, who won’t know what to expect.
Setting up is a good time to experiment with what you enjoy writing about, as it might surprise you. I thought I’d enjoy writing about tumblr, and “far left” politics, but I found myself more interested in less controversial areas, such as ethical habits and philosophies.
Some people who have chosen a niche incredibly well and clearly include “V” at Millenial Life Crisis, who cultivates low-key short-style content about her daily life, or David at Raptitude (one of my personal favourite blogs!) who covers philosophy, mindfulness and life-improvement experiments in longer, deeper posts about once a month.
Both are good, but if one started copying the other, their reliability and trust would instantly drop. We want to know what to expect when we visit our favourite sites – this includes our own “creative” sites.
A genuine way to pick a topic is to start writing whilst using tags and broad categories. Once you’ve written several posts, check to see which tags come up most often for you by using a tag cloud or WordPress content manager. Think about what you enjoy, and – if you’ve had viewers – which articles people seemed to like.
Instead of algorithm checking, which is often soulless and disappointing, this organic approach allows you to build on your personal strengths and interests. There’s no point in fighting abstract competitors for an audience of strangers if you’re not enjoying what you create!
Once you’ve established some main themes for your blog, you can write within those lines, and build a reputation with readers for a specific kind of content they’ll keep coming back for.
Time to Start Building Relationships
Ideally, with consistent content, readers will know what to expect from you, even if your subjects are fresh each time. People will come back when they’re looking for a certain kind of content they know you can deliver.
Over time, writing within selective favourite topics lets you be creative whilst still being consistent. A little structure will also help overcome “choice paralysis” and indecision – when you’ve got fewer topics to choose from, you choose faster and write better!
Consistency and quality will help people to build a relationship with your blog, leading to more organic sharing and “link building”.
By working on relationships first, you’ve ensured you made content that both you and your audience are proud and invested in. If you then start to rank, your expanded audience of fans will be a bonus, because your content comes from the heart, not an algorithm.
Finally – Time to Start Following My Own Advice!
I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog now and I’m still learning so much! Despite running for five years I have a very tiny readership, and I’m still not sure what my angle is.
It’s very easy to read advice, easy to give advice, but far harder to make decision to change and improve.
Instead of my usual 4+ hours writing (I know, I know! But placing those images *perfectly* is time-consuming work!), I wrote this in just an hour and half.
The world of writing can feel intimidating and impossible, despite well-intentioned advice, and sometimes the simplest advice is the best: keep going, and keep writing. So I’m back again for my weekly posts, and I’ll try to follow my own advice to become efficient, genuine and reliable.