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If you’re new to web publishing, you may have already heard that you should blog about what you love. But is that really the case? Choosing a niche that you’re passionate about has its advantages, but it can be risky too. Here’s why.
This post was originally written in May 2016, carrying the message: “You should blog about what you love!”. I updated it again in June 2020 with a new perspective: No more exclamation points.
There are pros and cons to choosing a niche based on what you love. The final choice depends on your situation. In 2023, the same message holds, and I’m coming back to this post to add a new angle:
Does AI content mean we should all go back to blogging only on things we love? (Spoiler: No, and I’ll explain why).
Over the years, I had hundreds of different websites; most of them very small. Back in the early 2000s, topics were up for grabs, and search engines were easy to manipulate. I confess: I was part of the big pseudo-SEO festival of the period. I even managed to rank a site for the lucrative term “auto loans.”
While my sites were never complete junk, they were MFA – Made For Adsense. When choosing my niches, I just went for whatever was lucrative on Adsense.
Case in point (literally): I had a website about the fascinating topic of DVD cases. It made hundreds of dollars a month from Adsense and Amazon. It was the dullest topic ever. (At least for me. I’m sure there are people out there who find the subject of DVD cases genuinely fascinating. I don’t know any of them, but with more than seven billion people on this planet, they must exist somewhere.)
Things have changed, for sure. But I still have sites in “boring” niches. Moreover, with the exception of Yeys, the content on my sites rarely reflects a personal passion or personal experience. And guess what? That works very well for me.
Still, like I said, there are pros and cons. For a first-time blogger, choosing a niche they’re passionate about could be the way to go. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to see why that is.
Blogging About What You Love – The Pros
Why should you choose a niche that you love? Here are a few compelling reasons.
1. You’ve done the initial research
One of the first steps I take when launching a new site is to map out the niche. I try to figure out how to structure the site and which topics to keep exploring with seed words.
If you know the niche, this stage becomes super easy.
Let’s say you’re a dog owner. You can probably demarcate your categories based on your everyday experience with your pooch. You know a dog needs to eat, so dog food makes a good category. You know what types of dog food are out there, and so “dry dog food” and “canned dog food” could become topics to explore. You may also be familiar with the debates around feeding grains or homemade diets – more topics for you to go after in that category.
Knowing the niche well can help you put together a vision of your site, making it easier to organize and structure content. If you’ve never published a website before, deciding on the structure of your site can be a daunting step. In that case, creating a site around something you love can make things easier.
In fact, when creating a new site, I always begin with an outline of the possible categories (or silos) and add those to my content plan spreadsheet.
2. Writing becomes fun!
If you are passionate about soccer, you probably read websites and blogs about the game anyway. You do that because you enjoy expanding your knowledge and learning from others.
Isn’t it remarkable that you can actually be working while doing that?
All it takes is getting organized, taking notes, and bookmarking resources, and you have the perfect background materials for writing your fascinating post about the game!
And it shows. When you write about something you love, your passion shines through.
When that happens, people listen, just like when you talk with your friends about your favorite topic. Enthusiasm is catching, and it can make your content more sticky. It’s hard to fake, too. Blogging about what you love lends your style a degree of authenticity that can’t be achieved without passion.
I hope it’s coming through in my post here. I LOVE web publishing and can talk about it forever!
3. Connecting with others becomes easier
Authenticity also makes it easier – and again, more fun – to connect with other bloggers. Leaving a comment on their latest blog post, you will probably go beyond the “thank you for your post” line because you indeed will have something of value to contribute.
It will also be easier to interact on Twitter, Instagram, or whatever social network is right for your niche (if any). You are probably already following that topic anyway and know who the industry influencers are. In the long run, networking can get you recognition and traffic.
Blogging About What You Love – The Cons
Here’s why I think choosing a niche that you love may not be a good idea.
1. A limited number of topics to choose from
What do you love? What’s your passion? This is something that many people ask themselves when they are about to choose their first niche. For myself, I think the answer would include cats, travel, and crochet.
All in all, that’s three topics. That is not a whole lot of choice. Moreover, I don’t think these are very good niches if you’re going after Google traffic. While you could carve out a nice sub-niche within travel, crochet and cats are not only oversaturated but also generally have low RPMs.
For most people, a list of their favorite topics could end up limiting their choice.
2. More competition
I’ve lost count of how many “first sites” I’ve seen that are about pets—specifically dogs. Fishing seems to be another big topic, and the same goes for gadgets and gaming.
I guess lots of guys love dogs, fishing, and playing computer games. There are also tons of recipe sites and parenting blogs out there for the same reason.
I don’t think competition should necessarily deter you. There will always be some competition out there. However, with so many newbies following the same methods, you’re going to have a hard time finding low-competition queries in these niches.
A new site relying solely on Google traffic is going to struggle now, more than ever, if going after high-competition queries.
3. What you love may not be lucrative
One of my considerations when choosing a niche is: What’s the RPM like?
RPM stands for Revenue Per M (1000 sessions). In essence, it’s how much money you can make for every 1,000 visits to your site.
It’s not always easy to estimate how much revenue a niche could generate, but I do my best. The two factors I look at are –
- Potential affiliate commissions
- The RPM range for display ads
For affiliate products and services, Amazon is still my preferred affiliate program (here’s why), so I look at what kind of Amazon products we can place in posts.
Crochet, though a passion of mine, isn’t something I’m likely to create a website around. The commission on crochet hooks and skeins of yarn will be minuscule.
Estimating the RPM range for display ads can be tricky, but if you spend enough time in webmaster forums and groups, you’ll get a sense of which niches get a better RPM range. For example, gaming may be something you enjoy, but the display ad rates are typically low.
Of course, there are other ways to generate revenue from sites. If you manage to carve out a good chunk of dedicated followers, you might be able to monetize that engaged traffic using other methods: info products or subscription fees for newsletters, or possibly affiliate programs other than Amazon.
I consider these methods to be fairly advanced. They require additional resources and a learning curve that goes beyond traffic generation.
If you’re following the “classic” niche site template, you’re probably looking to monetize using Amazon affiliate links and display ads. So again, choosing a niche strictly based on what you’re passionate about can lower your overall revenue.
4. You tend to put too much time and effort into each post
When you know a topic well, perfectionism becomes a constant risk. When I write about things I’m passionate about, I tend to put a lot of thought into each section, paragraph, sentence, and word. I do that when writing here for Yeys.
It’s perfectly okay when you post only a handful of posts a month. It isn’t OK if you’re trying to write 100 posts to launch your site.
Your content has to meet specific standards and be the best online answer for your reader’s search intent. And that’s all. Spending five hours on writing your text would mean publishing fewer posts.
I know this may come across as blasphemy to people who follow the “passion blogging” doctrine, but in my experience, it’s faster to write (or edit) content in a niche that I don’t care much about.
The AI Angle
Ok, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
Some bloggers claim that by choosing a “passion niche” and/or sharing personal experiences, your site will somehow stand out and be immune to AI taking away traffic from websites.
After all, if all my article does is to answer a longtail question well enough, providing information but not a personal angle – what sets it apart from a ChatGPT answer to the same query?
This idea was initially presented back when ChatGPT was launched. Web publishers were freaking out over how people will stop using Google and switch over to asking ChatGPT, never ever landing on our pages.
Some passion bloggers believe that by sticking to first-hand experiences shared in an authentic human voice, their sites will somehow be immune to this.
I disagree, and here’s why.
I believe audiences will eventually be divided into two groups.
The first section will be the people looking for succinct informational answers based on knowledge from multiple sources. They will best be served by their personalized AI assistant.
Imagine a personalized chatbot that knows how you prefer to get your answers (bullets, step-by-step, examples, images, short sentences etc.). You can already achieve this by adding custom instructions to ChatGPT, and it’s quite effective. It’ll get better in the future.
These people won’t be looking for the experiences of any single blogger. They care about their content consumption experience more than they care about whether you liked a certain dish or hotel.
These users want to hear a summary of all 1204 reviews collected from Booking.com, TripAdvisor.com, and Reddit. This would be where AI agents will excel – if allowed to access the Internet like Bing is doing today.
All publishers will be losing this segment of the audience. Passion bloggers or just summaries of information. These people are going to skip Google altogether and go to their AI.
The second section of the audience will be the people who stick to Googling. They will be slow to transition, distrusting AI tools, or simply unable to pay for robust AI assistants.
These people are just as likely to visit pages with personal accounts as they are today. No less, but also no more. And as we know, some queries lend themselves well to such accounts while others don’t necessarily need them.
That’s why I don’t think AI should change the way we choose niches.
When personalized AI agents get to the center of the stage, websites will lose traffic, and it won’t matter if they deliver personal experiences in an authentic voice.
And as for those users who will stick to websites, I see no reason to assume they will change their current taste and stick to personalized accounts.
Important note: it doesn’t matter if you’re using AI to create the content
It is a given that AI writing tools are employed by bloggers across niches. Even when sharing personal experiences, you can still use AI extensively in your articles. On the other hand, if you’re not sharing personal experiences, it does not mean you can just produce one-click content en masse.
In my opinion, by now, there is no longer a dichotomy between human and AI-generated content. In fact, every discerning blogger leverages AI to optimize their content strategy — and if you aren’t, it’s high time you start using AI responsibly and effectively
Gazing into the Crystal Ball
As much as I’d like to, I don’t possess a crystal ball to predict with absolute certainty the trajectory of the blogging sphere in the wake of AI advancements. We are venturing into uncharted territories, and the destination remains unclear.
The bottom line is that in my humble opinion, having a fervent personal connection to your niche will not essentially equip you with a robust defense against potential traffic dips in the future. Caused by AI or any other reason.
Choosing the right path for yourself
When choosing niches these days, I tend to ignore my personal likes and dislikes. I’ll be delegating content creation anyway, so it doesn’t have to be fun or easy for me to research the topic or write about it.
It’s the bottom line that counts. Over the last several years I’ve created literally dozens of sites. The ones that were in niches I happened to like did not fare better than the ones in “boring” niches. My company has made a LOT of money from very dull niches, with content delivered with zero personal angles.
All we did – and still do – is deliver content that’s useful to our readers in a way that’s easy to consume and – in the case of Google – matches their search intent. That works – whether you’re going gaga over puppies or describing auto loans.
If this is your first site
Having said that, for most people who are just getting into web publishing, I would suggest considering a niche that you know relatively well and at least like. Especially if your time is limited and you can’t spend more than 10-15 hours a week on your site.
Choosing a niche that you like, or love will probably be easier for you, for several reasons –
- You won’t have to do the initial research into the niche.
- Creating content – whether writing or editing AI output – will be easier.
- Breaking that initial “publisher’s block” should be easier when you have confidence in the information you provide.
Your goal is to get your first 30-50 posts out there as soon as you can. Knowing and liking your niche could help with that.
Don’t base your choice solely on passion!
Look into other parameters. The size of the niche matters, and so does the potential revenue range. Do your due diligence and find a niche that offers you the best chance for success.
Choose a niche and go with it.
If this is your first site, don’t obsess about your choice of niche. Just go with something and start producing content. There’s a very good chance that you’ll make many mistakes. Your first site could fail. So could your second. If you have a passion for web publishing, you’ll get there eventually.
And the only way to find out is by creating your first site. Don’t let analysis paralysis stop you from doing that.
And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Need help with choosing a niche? Or want to share your method of finding one? Leave me a comment below!