I’ve read a million different articles about making money on the web, and they all have one mantra in common: Start with a niche. Start with a niche. Start with a niche. Niche niche niche niche niche.
For personal bloggers, this piece of money making scripture almost seems to guarantee that personal bloggers will never make money from their personal site. Unfortunately, no one ever mentions why.
Can you make money from a personal site? Yes, you can. Will you expend a ton of effort running campaign after campaign and earn less than if you started a niche site? Yes, you will.
When you start any small site, you are the webmaster, the marketer, the writer, the editor, and the salesperson. Every day you have to come up with ideas, analyze your stats, network with people, build traffic, and find sales opportunities, all while writing outstanding content that people want to keep coming back for.
It’s a lot of work.
And how is that work supposed to pay off? That really depends on whether you’re trying to make money from your blog or because of it.
If you want to make money from your blog, the most common route on both personal and niche blogs is to host advertising. It’s not a guaranteed money-maker, but it’s the most common place that people start when trying to earn from their blogs. If you’re not advertising something that your readers want, you’re not going to generate any income, and advertising that doesn’t generate any income is merely decoration. Making money with advertising is about knowing what your readers want and getting it in front of them so that they can buy it.
I want you to pay attention for a second, because the reason why your blog needs a niche is simple and no one ever seems to say it:
Even if you build your personal site up to 15, 20, or 100 thousand readers a month, your readership will be so diverse that it will be nearly impossible to provide them with advertising that they will find useful. The only thread that you can be sure that your readers have in common is their interest in you. Unfortunately, you aren’t a product that can be advertised and sold online like a book or a CD, so even if you started selling fingers and toes, you’re only going to make 20 sales this year with no repeat business.
That’s not to say personal bloggers can’t make money from advertising. It’s just more difficult. If you know that your personality is the only reason that readers keep coming back to your site, it might be easier and a lot less messy to generate income by earning a living because of your personal blog by picking up freelance gigs or other opportunities that come about through connections with your readers. Beyond that, it’s going to be extremely difficult to pick products and services that will appeal to a majority of your diverse audience.
Now imagine that you built a niche site with the same number of readers that focuses on the latest cell phones. Are you going to have trouble figuring out what products and services to advertise? Probably not. You know exactly why people are coming to your site. If they were looking for something other than cell phones, they wouldn’t be there. Because you know why your readers are there, providing targeted advertising will involve a lot less guesswork and appeal to a larger portion of your readership than you could ever hope to achieve on a personal site.
So, do you need to shut down your personal site and build a niche site? Not at all. I encourage you to use your corner of the web exactly as you want to. A niche simply makes it easier to make money from your blog because it doesn’t require a marketing degree to serve up advertisements that appeal to your readers. Niches are just one methodology to earn money on the web, not a mantra to be blindly followed. And now that you understand why they work, you can use them to your advantage.