Bloggers September 27, 2020

Single-focus or multiple topics for a personal blog?

Steven Kim @stevenkkim

Hi IH Bloggers,

I'm thinking about starting a personal blog, but I'm not sure how wide or narrow my focus should be.

My problem is that there are a few different topics I'm interested in blogging about:

  1. Indiehacking, building businesses, startups
  2. Personal productivity
  3. Education, particularly for kids (I have 3), but also general learning and self-development
  4. Coding with my current stack

I have 2 goals:

  1. Share knowledge on these topics because I like helping others
  2. Build an audience for my current project (a productivity app), and maybe for future projects as well

On one hand, I want to blog about all these topics. On the other hand, I'm concerned that if I blog about too many things, it will be difficult to build an audience – in my experience, I'm much more likely to follow/subscribe to a single-topic blog because I know exactly what I'm going to get. I don't like following blogs where only 1 in 4 posts is a topic I'm interested in.

Another alternative is to have multiple blogs each focused on one topic, but that obviously could be a lot more work/overhead.

What do you think, and if you have a blog what approach do you take?

Is your blog single-focus or multi-focus?
  1. I blog mostly around one topic
  2. I blog on a few (2-3) different topics
  3. I blog about lots of different things
Vote
  1. 6

    If you’re blogging to make money, stick to one or two topics.

    If you just want to have personal space to share thought and ideas then blog about whatever you want!

    1. 1

      Thanks Mubashar, makes sense!

  2. 3

    I blog about lots of different things. But these things can be grouped in about 2-3 broad topics, with some relationships and partial overlaps.

    I'm aware of the possible issues with covering too many topics, especially for building an audience for future projects. But I'm trying to establish something like a personal brand in which non-niche audiences can find enough interesting stuff. I hope the effort will pay off in the long run.

    1. 1

      I agree with this approach. It is hard to be 100% focused on one topic if you are starting a personal blog. You likely have diverse interests and so will your readers, but you should remain focused on a few overarching themes. Caveat that I am new to all of this as well but this is what I have discovered through my own research and exploration.

    2. 1

      Thanks for the feedback Paolo. Would you mind sharing a link to your blog? I'd love to check it out.

        1. 1

          Wow, lots of interesting stuff here!

          1. 1

            Well, I do warn moonshots are involved 😂

            1. 1

              Literally and figuratively! Lol

  3. 3

    I'm curious what you're optimizing for. cuz IMO, it's a personal site. you can put anything you want on it, any way you want to. That's why it's personal!

    Today, my personal blog is an industry blog. It didn't start that way. Over the years it's covered everything from web development to conference recaps. But along the way it became a source that is cited regularly as one of the most valuable independent resources for people who run coworking spaces.

    You're a multidimensional human, with multi-dimensional interests. That's makes you great.

    You don't have to let internet strangers tell you how you're allowed to decorate your house 🙂

    That's the beauty of owning your own little corner of the internet. You get to be who you are, without apologizing for it!

    1. 1

      Alex, thanks for sharing your experience. Questions for you - was your blog's transformation from "personal" to "industry" a deliberate decision or did it just naturally evolve that way? And today do you still put personal posts that may not be relevant to your industry/audience? (I assume you are referring to your blog at https://stackingthebricks.com)

      To be honest I'm not exactly sure what I'm optimizing for. But based on the feedback here, I'm thinking about having two separate blogs, one for building an audience for current/future business and one for just personal things I'm interested in.

      1. 2

        Nope, I'm referring to dangerouslyawesome.com

        The shift to indusry blog was when people stated finding it useful. I just kept focusing on making my posts more useful than the other stuff I saw. I never called it an industry blog - my readers defined it that way.

        Last year I invested in some design work to organize the archive, but that was after 13 years of writing there! I still write personal reflections there, too.

        In my experience, splitting effort across two blogs at once tends to mean both suffer as a result.

        If you aren't sure what youre optimizing for then splitting them is more likely to slow you down in the long run than just...writing.

        You can always split it later if you find a need to optimize (that's how StackingTheBricks came to be once we knew we wanted a site that could be a home for articles that both Amy and I write).

        Staying focused on one place to write gives you the most advantages, with the fewest drawbacks.

        1. 1

          Cool, thanks for sharing. I knew about stackingthebricks but not about dangerouslyawesome.

          Maybe instead of splitting my time, I'll just focus on one first and put the second on the backburner.

          Thanks for your feedback!

          1. 1

            You're welcome!

            Main thing that I think folks get hung up on is that your readers will leave if you write anything other than your biz/content articles.

            In my experience, the opposite is true. Not everyone will read the personal experession bits but the people who do can feel a stronger personal connection. People are multi-faceted. Curious people are everywhere!

            Good luck, keep writing 😄

  4. 3

    I began to blog seriously two years ago. At the beginning, I was blogging about everything and anything, always related to software development. Over the years, I tried to get what kind of audience I have from this or that article, and I began to narrow down the blog itself, to accomplish these goals:

    1. I need to still have fun while writing. This is really important, otherwise I can't sustain my motivation.
    2. Get an interesting audience around values I find powerful, and which can differentiate myself from the other blogs in the same space.
    3. Providing a maximum of value, and trying to get as much feedback as I can.

    In short, I took the opposite way: I didn't ask myself what to write, I began writing and I tried to figured it out as I go. Feedback have been really useful and motivating. It's maybe slower, but I base my decisions on what I learn from that.

    I have strong ideas how to serve the content from the beginning, though: long form articles (it's what I like, and I think it's not what everybody does, so maybe others are interested), with a distinctive feel, with humor (too rare in technical fields), and a maximum of value. To achieve the last part, I decided not to focus so much on SEO which always drag me in boring trends and stuff everybody is writing.

    I still try to figure out in what direction going, but I think I nail it more and more, and the metrics seem to agree with me.

    Here's my blog if you're curious: https://thevaluable.dev

    1. 1

      Matthieu, thanks for sharing - your advice makes a lot of sense, and I like your approach. It's probably impossible to predict how a blog will evolve over time so might as well just start in a direction that feels right and see where it goes. Thanks for sharing your blog, I just signed up for the newsletter.

      1. 1

        Thanks for subscribing :)

  5. 3

    Hi Steven,

    I blogged around multiiple topics for years. It was a mistake so I stopped blogging there. I had a variety of one-off articles that attracted many subscribers not really interested in my other content.

    If you are writing for yourself and you don't care about an audience, then write whatever you want. I find that enjoyable and rewarding personally, but it's not a good business strategy.

    If you want an audience for your productivity app, sticking to productivity topics would probably be a good idea. Other topics could be related to productivity but it's more of a stretch.

    Maybe a better way to think about this is:

    Is your goal content marketing to sell more of your app, and other future products?
    Or, are you blogging because you want to express yourself?

    Content marketing is very different than writing a personal blog? One is designed to attract traffic with an interest in buying your products. The other is for yourself.

    Both can be valuable, but you'll have better results if you focus on what you really want.

    I hope that helps.
    John

    1. 1

      Thanks John, very helpful feedback. Your experience makes sense to me. I'm now thinking I may need two blogs, one for content marketing and one for just personal expression. Thanks!

  6. 2

    Hi Steven,

    Great question. It's something I think about often with my personal blog as well. If you're interested you can check it out at TylerDeVries.com and I'd love to get your feedback.

    The conclusion I've been coming around to is that perhaps the topic(s) you cover doesn't matter so much as long as you're clear about the audience you're writing for. So in my example, I'm trying to cater to young professionals in their 20s who are just getting started in their career. I try to cover topics like productivity, effective communication, leadership, time management, etc.

    At the end of the day, I guess I'm not trying to spend too much time trying to focus my topics down to a specific niche, but instead trying to make sure that my writing is engaging and helpful to my audience.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Hi Tyler, you make a really great point. I was thinking terms of topics, but thinking in terms of audience is the more useful approach. Sometimes topic = audience, but not always.

      I think your blog looks great, seems like you've produced a lot of high-quality content. Do you have a particular goal/purpose for your blog?

      My only piece of feedback is that you have so much content, you may want to include a "getting started" or "where to start" page. Sometimes bloggers will have a top 5 most popular posts or something which is a great way to highlight your best work and get people reading. When I see 75 book summaries/notes, on one hand I think wow that's a lot of great info, but on the other hand I think wow, where do I even begin? Because I'm definitely not going to sit down for the next 10 hours and read all 75 summaries in a row.

      1. 1

        That's great feedback, I really appreciate you taking the time to check it out. I agree—more organization, or even just a clear "getting started" page would help.

        I started my personal blog with the idea that I wanted to (1) learn how to develop a website, (2) get better at writing, and (3) build a portfolio of public work that might help differentiate me from other job candidates in the future.

        I've been at it for just over 2 years now, and I'd say that my goals have remained more or less the same, but I actually just recently joined IH to start getting more serious about growing the audience of my newsletter. No plans to monetize in the near future (other than maybe some Amazon affiliate links), but I'm more interested in the challenge of learning how to build an online audience.

        1. 1

          Hi @tydevries, great feedback, I was thinking about the same question and like your answer the most. Just one additional question, would you mind sharing how many subscribers do you have in your newsletter? I'm researching how audiences think about subscribing to personal newsletters vs business newsletters.

          1. 1

            Currently 65. Mostly friends and family.

            1. 1

              Got it. Thanks for the information, Tyler. So far, personal newsletters seem not attractive to audiences, especially those who didn't reach certain popularity.

        2. 1

          Sounds good. Good luck with your goals!

  7. 2

    I think the single topic blog should be better, to build an audience, best if with a youtube channel.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your feedback. I wasn't thinking about YouTube, but I wonder if there's a good way to repurpose blog content for video. Something to think about!

      1. 1

        VideoObjects in your structured data are a plus point, as far as the topics are concerned search engines prefer unique content,

        interlinked content, content which you can answer to your audience when they leave comments.

        I started with WordPress 11 Years ago as a Blog at that time things were different, and I still regret not continuing the blog for more than two years. ( Have written in detail on my blog in the about section )

        Again I started in 2020, so I too am a new blogger now,

        It is my first interaction on IH Forum.

        I am working on Google's AMP as a Native Site with AMP on Big and small screen, both.

        Also starting up with the Google Web Stories as a new way to publish,
        I have written a detailed post on that on my blog here.

        https://netnaps.com/how-to/google-web-stories-wordpress/

        With 14 posts on my blog, I have hit around 1k Users all because of the AMP in the first month.

        The categories I primarily write about are macOS, AMP, WordPress and Amazon AWS Lightsail.
        Thanks & best of luck!

        1. 1

          Thanks for all this info, I will look into it. Good luck to you too!

  8. 1

    Personally, I like to read blogs about people's journeys and what they learn. That will vary from business advice, personal relationships, how to balance work with a healthy lifestyle etc. These are the blogs that I found myself going to time and time again.

  9. 1

    Here's some good advice from world-class blogger https://www.nateliason.com/blog/start-a-blog

    1. 1

      Bookmarked, will read. Thanks!

  10. 1

    I say for building an audience and to establish domain authority focus on one to maybe two topics. I had the same dilemma recently at my blog thetoulbox.com where I wanted to also discuss higher educational tips but after reading "Doing Content the Right Way" by Steph Smith, I learned to focus on what I have a personal monoply on (ch. 1) . Meaning, what could I write about that 95% of the population has no idea about? For me it is being a fairly new Software Engineer in a DevOps role who works heavily in the Cloud. What helped me to choose between the two was to open a notepad and create as many potential blog posts ideas as possible for each idea. For educational tips I got around 10 post ideas with the other I got 100+, so that made it clear which one I knew more about. Lastly, "Doing Content the Right Way" also stresses the purpose behind the blog aka "Why am I taking the time to do this?" (ch.2) that question might also help with deciding. The answer for me is because I want to become known as an expert through my writings and want to build a following of those interested in learning technical ideas. Nowhere in there is a focus on higher educational tips so it's off the table.

    1. 1

      I like your approach of brainstorming ideas and letting the number of post ideas guide the direction. Thanks for sharing!

  11. 1

    I completely relate to what you are facing right now. Blogging is a very slow proccess, especially when you are trying to understand what will give you the most joy. Even if your topics seem complementary, imagine how powerful it would be if another parent interested in productivity finds your writings.

    I started a digital garden, and it is giving me, above all, much enjoyment, and some mindful conversations

    1. 1

      Thanks for sharing. What platform/software/tool are you using for your digital garden?

      1. 1

        I wrote about it here it is custom built with Python, TailwindCSS, and deployed to Netlify.

      2. 1

        And how is "learning in public" working out for you? I've obviously heard about "working in public", it's done here on IH all the time. But it's the first time I've heard about learning in public.

        1. 1

          I think it is a bit too early to say. I see it as a twofold approach, a new way of blogging on the one hand, and learning in public properly on the other.

          So far, I have been writing a lot, and I have enjoyed the process. But, as I mention in the link, there are risks associated with the idea of learning in public that I haven't fully explored nor encountered (such as being mistaken on a big topic, etc.) and that, for sure, will make me re-evaluate the entire thing.

          1. 1

            It sounds like an interesting experiment. I don't think there's much downside. I think the worst that will happen is that no one else will read your learning-in-public posts. Hopefully there will be some upsides as well!

            1. 1

              I think it depends on the topics you plan to cover and how transparent you are with what you write. If you always hold back and don't really 'speak' up your mind, then I agree with you.

              It also depends on the kind of image you are projecting. If you want to become a 'thought leader' for example, there can be some sever backslash beyond people not reading anymore.

              And sure, the upside is that I am enjoying writing like never before, and I've managed to push out there more content in the last 2 months than in the previous year, so that is a net win for me.

  12. 1

    How about a "digital garden"?

    check Anne-Laure's digital garden at mentalnodes.com

    1. 1

      it's "more than a tweet, less than a blog" and everything is interconnected

    2. 1

      Thanks, I'm familiar with Anne-Laure's concept of a digital garden, and I think it's a useful metaphor. But I can't really understand the benefit of making it public - it's just not something I think readers would find useful. Do you read her notes at mentalnodes.com?

      1. 1

        I completely agree with your points. I do think you should not use mentalnodes as an example. Just check the sitemap and you'll see it was abandoned for almost 4 months already. Anne-Laure's is building a product around a proper blog that she keeps somewhere else.

        If you are looking for inspiration regarding a different approach to "blogging", I would suggest to check:

        They, I believe, achieved a good balance between "blogging" and "gardening". And are definitely worth a look.

        1. 1

          Thanks for sharing these links, interesting reads! The first one in particular. I'm planning on using Gatsby for my blog, and I think I can use some of Tom's ideas/process from his Jekyll blog/garden. Thanks!

      2. 1

        yes, I do read mentalnodes sometimes

        1. 1

          Interesting... it seemed too unstructured and random to me. But maybe that’s the point?

          1. 1

            umm..
            "Digital Garden" is like taking note of those interesting thoughts that randomly pop into your head.
            You can go back to that little thought, ponder more on it.. or just realize it makes no sense and delete it.

            of course overtime you need to tend to the "garden" by pruning and organizing everything. This is the part you publish to the world.

            I use notion to take note of such thoughts.
            Thanks to this random note taking, I was able to organize some of these notes and send it to a client to explain something (you can read it here: https://zee.instadukan.com)

            Yea, blogs are definitely more structured.
            But digital gardens come naturally to the mind.. mentally it's easier to come up with new stuff since there are no rigid rules/restrictions to the content

            so I guess, one can start off with a private notion garden and grow it into a blog too!

            1. 1

              Sorry I meant to say that i don’t understand the point of making a digital garden public - it’s too random and unstructured for the typical reader at least to me. But it can obviously be very helpful for the notetaker/writer in private!

              1. 2

                I think you have to split both ideas, one is about learning in public, such as what Any Matuschak does, and what mental nodes tried to emulate, and the other is about generating content for others to read (such as what joel hooks are tome critchlow are doing in the other links I shared in a different reply).

                I believe that what you want to achieve is to get content out "fast" so that people can start reading. But, as you mentioned, you have different topics that you are interested in. You can, of course, split your work on different pages/blogs, so that they don't overlap. I did this, and, believe me, it requires A LOT of effort.

                At some point you have to ask yourself why you want to blog, truly. Are you trying to set up a marketing blog? (i.e. a blog to increase your SEO so that people find your product?) Or do you want to share the things you care about, the things you learn. You have to be mindful, because finding motivation to write about a tangential topic in your life is very, very tough.

                On the other hand, if your barrier to publish is lower, because you organized your website in a different way, you can write about whatever crosses your mind that day/week/month. Is it parenting? Great! Is it productivity? Perfect! Is it productivity for parents? Superb! Remember that you asked about a "personal" blog. Therefore the best you can do, in my opinion, is make it as personal as possible. Don't narrow down on one topic. Using myself as an example, I write about my daily job, including very specific topics that, for me, are useful to have out there so I can share a link anytime I want, but I also share work in progress regarding a course I am designing, and that already sparkled interesting discussions and connections.

                Writing itself is time and energy consuming. If on top of that you add an extra barrier for the act of publishing, then it becomes even harder. If, on top of that you add the topic constraints, SEO optimizations, etc. another barrier. Since you are just starting, remove as many barriers as you can, get things out without minding about the 'best practices' out there. You'll have plenty of time to understand what you enjoy writing about, what people like reading about, and how you can build (perhaps a product) on those two conditions.

                1. 1

                  Aquiles, thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed reply. These are all great points. After all the discussion here, I think I am going to start with just one blog and see how it goes, and then maybe start or branch off a second later on if it makes sense.

                  Lowering the bar is always great advice, but I often find myself accidentally raising it instead!

                  If you don't mind my asking, how do readers find your site/content and where do are you having your discussions/connections/conversations? On Twitter?

                  1. 1

                    Sure, you should find your own way of doing things. What I missed when I started were the possible alternatives, so the more complete of a panorama, the better choice you'll make.

                    Regarding how they find me, I don't know explicitly. I've shared some of the notes on communities, twitter, and directly to people. I make a case of not tracking who visits the website. This is by design, so I write about what I want and not about what brings people in.

                    When I move to stage 3, which is sharing what I consider "finished" articles, I guess I'll be dropping the link or reusing the content in some communities, such as this one.

                    Regarding conversations, so far they have been mostly through Twitter and as replies to where I shared the code. Some (the most meaningful ones) were by e-mail or in person. I have added comments some days ago, but I am a bit uncertain, since comments with fluid content may not make sense. I am using utterances, which requires people to have a Github account, and that may deter the occasional web browser person to comment, but let's see.

                2. 1

                  And, of course, I forgot about this post by Derek Sivers, that may be of great help for you to make a choice.

              2. 1

                ah, I agree!
                digital garden is more helpful for the notetaker/writer in private

  13. 1

    I've also been wondering about this for myself. My blog is about coding, and entrepreneurship, but I also want to write about other interests as they come up. I'm planning on sticking to one blog with multiple topics - seems easier to manage.

    1. 1

      Yeah, managing multiple blogs could be too much. After all the discussion here, I think I'm going to just start with one and see how things evolve.

      1. 1

        Awesome. Good luck and feel free to let me know when you publish!

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