As I wrote in my previous post, I blog about life as a mother. Did you notice that I never mentioned that it is ‘a blog about motherhood’ or ‘a mom blog’? It’s not that I don’t know the existence of these words in the English language: they simply don’t describe my blog. In this second post in my series on blogging, I’ll explain how to find the perfect niche for a blog.
The blog you own now probably isn’t the blog you started out with at first. When I started my — mom — blog, I thought I could fill my blog with articles about pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. My categories were: ‘pregnancy’, ‘childbirth’ and ‘motherhood’.
Within a month of blogging, I noticed I had ten blog posts in the category ‘motherhood’, two in ‘pregnancy’ and one in ‘childbirth’. Continuing that way would make my site extremely unbalanced. Facing this SEO disaster waiting to happen, I displayed the best behavior I could: I stuck my head in the sand. Ostriches suddenly saw me as one of their own. This continued for another five months and until I gradually lost my joy in blogging.
I kept ignoring my site structure, as I didn’t believe this was my problem, even though there’s plenty of proof I was wrong. I went to a blogger conference, bought books about blogging and visited websites about blogging. Every time my enthusiasm spiked again, and I was ready to start. Ideas started to form, and I began to write, only to find out that during the writing process, my posts didn’t belong in any of the predefined categories. So, I created new categories for my new posts. A month later, I found that these new categories were, again, unbalanced.
Do you see the pattern I only came to see two months ago? My problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. I had tons of inspiration. My problem was that I kept thinking inside the box. The mom blog box to be precise.
Taking a step back
I sat down with my notebook and wrote down what kind of blog I wanted to write. Yes, I wanted to write about motherhood, but I also wanted to share quick recipes for parents who hate to cook, as I do. I wanted to write about personal experiences. But I also wanted to write about self-care and planners, because I love planners and notebooks. I wanted to write about so many things, that my head was exploding with ideas. I just wanted to start. The only problem was that my blog didn’t feel mine anymore. I feared I had to create a new blog with a new name, a new theme, and new business cards.
I then talked to my colleague Patrick. Patrick is one of the SEO experts within Yoast. He answers a lot of SEO questions for our Yoast SEO Premium users — and our developers as well. I explained to him that I owned a mom blog, but wanted to write about more subjects. I wanted a lifestyle blog but focused on motherhood. As we talked, I had a newfound enthusiasm for my blog. I realized there’s one thing I had forgotten to do the past year: to step out of the box I created for myself. I still thought I had to blog about what I initially thought I wanted to blog about. Instead, I could stretch my niche as far as I could in the way I wanted to.
Stretching your niche within your current site
As I talked with Patrick, he told me that what I wanted, could very well be done. As my blog is still relatively small, there wasn’t a reason not to write about what I wanted to write about; unless I wanted to write about shovel machines all of a sudden. You would have to twist that subject really good to link it with family life as to not confuse your visitors and Google, unless you live in a shovel machine and bring the tiny house trend to a whole new level. If that’s the case, please drop your link in the comment. I would love to see those decorating tips.
With renewed energy, I faced the next concern. My blog name is a pun that could be linked to motherhood and has a spelling mistake by design. I worried that Google might not favor my articles over the articles of someone with the name ‘mom’ in their domain name. Or that Google already understood the joke hidden in my blog name and linked it to a mom blog forever. Fortunately, I didn’t have to ask this question at work and perhaps make a fool out of myself, as we already wrote articles about domain names — thank you Michiel for this one, you saved me from asking if Google is capable of getting jokes and puns.
It’s a relief that Google doesn’t rank based on domain names. But visitors do. If your domain name doesn’t match what your site is about, they might not visit again. If you have a really obscure name and tld, visitors might not even understand it is a valid URL. And if you have a site name or branding that doesn’t match your content at all, your visitors might not understand your site, and you will lose them.
Changing things around
As I’m still working on redefining my niche by writing down everything I want to write about and the corresponding categories that I might need, my site structure is rapidly changing. I switched blog posts from one category to another to see what structure worked best. My permalink structure was set up to display ‘category/post-name’ and let me tell you; I created 404 errors faster than you could say ‘Google Search Console.’ I cried, created redirects and visited the permalinks tab in my dashboard.
With fear for even more 404s, I changed my permalink structure from ‘category/post-name’ to just ‘post-name.’ I hid underneath my desk, muttered an uh-oh and carefully visited a blog post with the old structure. I expected a 404. I found that WordPress redirected this permalink structure without any problems at all.
My entire adventure of a wrongly structured site, 404 errors, permalink changes and feelings of uh oh and trying to understand Google led to finding my niche. I hope not everyone has to go through this fear. If there’s one lesson to be learned from my adventure: get your blog’s focus clear and then sit down for the right site structure. And whatever you do: don’t play with ostriches.
Read more: Blog SEO: How to start a blog »