How to Choose the Perfect Topic for Your Next Blog

  • September 13, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 93 Comments

The results are in! We’ve chosen a topic for the Million Dollar Blog Project, thanks to your nominations and voting.

If you’re dying of curiosity, you can skip ahead and find out the topic we chose.

But first, we’re going to explain exactly how to choose a great topic for your own blog, no matter your goals.

If you’re participating in the $1MBP, you might be asking yourself that question right now. You should choose a topic for the project soon, so you can follow along as we build out and launch our new blog.

Here’s the thing: there’s no single right way to choose a blog topic, and the best topic for you depends a lot on your situation and what you hope to do with your blog.

When I started my first blog, I just wanted to chronicle the sabbatical we were on, and explore alternative ways of viewing the relationship between work and life. At the time, that was exactly the right topic for me because I needed to go through that exploration process to learn about myself and what I wanted to do next online. It also taught me a lot about blogging.

Those lessons about blogging led me to start Think Traffic, and now the new blog we’re starting for the Million Dollar Blog Project.

You never know where a decision like that will take you.

One of the most important things you can do is simply to get started. It’s easy to become paralyzed by all the potential choices of topics you could blog about (and later about brand, design and content issues).

I’m going to share just about everything I know here about selecting a topic that should make your life easier once you launch your blog. Use this information to help you, but don’t let it paralyze you. Make sure you choose something that fits your criteria, and move on.

Progress should be your goal, not perfection.

You can always modify your topic later, or even change it completely. Anything is possible on the Internet.

For this particular project, our goal is to build a blog that earns at least $1M over it’s life. I’m going to imagine a 10-year maximum life span for the blog we’re going to create, which means it will have to earn $100K per year or more.

Your goals for your own blog might be entirely different. Maybe you just want to explore a topic, connect with cool people, become a better writer, land your dream job, create new opportunities, or maybe you’re just curious about how this whole blogging thing works.

There is no “right” answer. Whatever you want to do is both possible and valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The Internet is a huge place with room for anything you want to create.

Again, for this project, the goal is to create something profitable. We also have several other goals. We wanted a topic that would also be (in no particular order):

  • fun to work on
  • an opportunity to create meaningful and helpful content
  • something we already know something about
  • an opportunity to reach a wide audience (millions of people)
  • something with an opportunity to cover in a new and unique way, or for an audience that has been underserved by existing blogs

In addition to all that, I wanted to choose a topic that I believe we can build a blog that becomes a recognized leader in the space. We’re aiming to create something big and meaningful, not just a cute little side project.

How to Choose a Topic for Your Blog

Here are a few simple steps to follow when choosing your next blog topic.

1) Write down your goals for the blog you’re starting.

What do you hope to achieve by starting this blog? Fame? Fortune? Fun? Connections? I talked about a few reasons above. Write down all the reasons why you want to start this blog.

(Here’s a quick hint: it isn’t wrong to want to earn money, but you should have other motivations at the same time otherwise you’ll have a hard time succeeding. Lots of people learn that the hard way first.)

Also write down any sub-goals or criteria that your topic must have in order to meet your goals.

What are you looking for in a topic in order to meet your goals?

For example, if one of your criterion is that the blog topic can’t cost much money to learn or write about, you wouldn’t want to choose a topic like “reviews of luxury hotels in the South Pacific.” That might be an expensive topic to get started with. Sure, you can sometimes get free review access to products and services, but probably only after you’re established.

Make a list of goals and criteria like I did above.

2) Make a list of topics that you have a) experience in, b) an interest in and c) think you could be good at writing about.

You’ll need to scour the web and other sources for topic ideas. Don’t just write down everything in your head once and choose from that. Give yourself some time to develop an in-depth list.

Here are a few sources of potential blog topics:

If you know of other great sources of potential topics, please share in the comments below for other people reading this.

3) Review your list of topics against your goals and criteria. Eliminate those which don’t match.

If some of your goals or criteria are less important than others, you can decide whether to eliminate topics based on not being able to meet that particular goal.

4) Make a short list of 3 to 10 of your favorites from the remaining list.

Discuss that list with a friend or someone who’s opinion you trust. Talk about pros and cons of each topic, considering your criteria.

Complete a weighted average decision matrix if you’re the analytical type or if you’re stuck.

Narrow your list down to the top three.

If one of your goals is to make money from your blog, you’ll need to consider how your blog will make money before you make a final selection.

There are lots of ways to earn revenue from a blog. Consulting, selling products, selling ebooks, affiliate marketing and advertising are some common ways.

We’ll talk much more about how to earn revenue from your blog in the future. For now, look for evidence that another blog on a similar topic has earned revenue. Also look for successful blogs on other topics that earn revenue in ways you could adapt for your chosen topic.

It’s also important for your topic to solve a problem or fulfill a need your audience has. The stronger the desire, the easier it will be to make sales (but also potentially the more competition you’ll have).

Now, at this point you need to be thinking about what makes a blog successful. There are a handful of essential components of popular blog, in my experience. Those are:

  • A solid topic choice
  • Great branding and design
  • The right mindset
  • Differentiation (the unique selling proposition)
  • Outstanding content (or epic shit if you prefer)
  • An effective promotion strategy
  • Longevity

Ask yourself these questions to make sure you’re covering the basics:

Why should someone read my blog vs. the 100s of other blogs out there on this topic (or related topics? How would my blog be different?

Am I capable of writing outstanding content on this topic? Could my content be better than 90% of blogs that exist on related topics?

Am I excited enough about this topic to write about it multiple times every week for a year, even if I don’t draw a large audience?

The Difference is in the Difference

In blogs, as in business, the best topic for you to choose probably isn’t something that is entirely new. New ideas are hard to find, and hard to find an audience for.

Instead, you’ll probably end up choosing a topic that other blogs already cover. That’s a completely reasonable plan.

The question then becomes, can you write about this topic (or create video or whatever) in a way that is different and better than what has already been done?

Differentiation is a critical element of building a successful blog. If you’re different (and better), people will notice. Just being better isn’t enough. You also need to be different.

Here are a few quick examples of what I mean by differentiation.

Adam Baker created a blog on personal finance. There were thousands of popular blogs on personal finance already. Man Vs. Debt succeeded because Baker’s content is outstanding and because his approach to personal finance was different. He shares his family’s adventure in becoming debt free and his journey to do something he loves for a living.

Steve Kamb started a blog on health and fitness. There were thousands of popular blogs on health and fitness already. Nerd Fitness succeeded because Steve’s content is outstanding and because he focused on an underserved segment of the market with a unique approach.

Leo Babauta started a blog about productivity. There were other successful blogs about productivity already. Today Zen Habits is one of the biggest single-author blogs in the world. It’s a TIME Magazine best blog of the year. Zen Habits succeeded because Leo’s content is outstanding and because he let his choice of topic morph into something unique and different and perfectly suited to Leo’s interests and knowledge.

I’m going to remind you of what we talked about at the opening of this post. Your goal is progress, not perfection.

Don’t be daunted by the thought of what Baker, Steve or Leo has created. Each one of them was at the exact same place you’re at right now. None of them had it all figured out in the beginning, and each of them changed their topic and content formula over time.

Just do your best to choose something with room to grow.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition post for more tips on differentiating your idea.

Now go forth and choose a great topic for your blog.

In upcoming posts, we’ll be talking more about differentiation and the unique selling proposition. We’ll also talk about branding and design, two other critical elements of creating a successful blog.

Now, let’s reveal our topic for the $1MBP.

Our Topic for the Million Dollar Blog Project

Instead of just choosing a topic ourselves for this project, we wanted to get you involved as well. This was partly to collect more ideas and partly to make it more of a group project.

First we asked for your help in nominating topics for our new “million dollar” blog. Then we sent a survey out to Think Traffic subscribers and asked everyone to vote on their favorite choice of topic for this project.

Over 350 people voted on over 80 topic ideas. We asked you to pick your top 5 choices. Here are your top 10 choices from the survey:

The most popular choices covered many different topics, from blog/website design to becoming an expert at new things, becoming a better writer or building an iPhone application.

Caleb and I went through a very similar process to what I outlined above for choosing our topic (with the exception of brainstorming topics ourselves, since you all helped out with that part).

Of the 10 most popular choices from the survey, honestly I think any one of them could be a fun and viable choice for us. There were pros and cons to all of them, but they’re all workable.

It turns out that your #1 choice was one of our favorites as well.

Blog/website design is something that I’ve helped dozens of clients with, something I enjoy, and something I think there’s a big market for. Our assistant editor Caleb is also interested in web design and has designed and built websites for clients as well.

87 people voted for Blog/Website Design as a topic we should use for this project (about 25% of total voters).

Remember, from our criteria above we wanted a topic that will be: fun, meaningful, something we’re familiar with, an opportunity to reach millions of people, and an opportunity to cover in a new and unique way. And of course, we have to believe we can make a profit by blogging about the topic somehow.

Blog/website design meets the first four criteria for us easily. The last one will require some work on differentiation and developing a good unique selling proposition, but we’re feeling up to the challenge.

The topic for our million dollar blog will be: blog/website design.

We’ll narrow down the topic in the coming weeks, but that is the general category to start with.

That’s it. There’s no magic really. We just used a straightforward selection process and chose a solid topic with lots of room for growth and experimentation.

Thanks for your help.

Remember, if you’re following along with this project, you can choose any topic you like. It doesn’t have to be on blog/website design or anything related. You can write about training goldfish if you like, it’s totally up to you.

Hopefully this guide has helped you think about how to choose your own topic.

Later this week, we’ll be showing you how to choose a great domain name for your blog, and how to set your blog up (including choosing a platform, web host and other important stuff). Don’t miss that post coming this Thursday.

Do you have questions about choosing your topic? Need help with something related to the Million Dollar Blog Project? Let us know in the comments, we’re glad to help.

Also, we’d love to know: what do you think about the topic we chose?

See you again later this week.

If you haven’t signed up already, why not get free email updates so you don’t miss a single post in this series?

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Steve September 13, 2011 at 7:41 am

Corbett (and Caleb); Blog/website design sounds like a really quality topic. I’m sure y’all will come up with some useful content that can help benefit a lot of readers. Personally I know I’d like to learn more about this one.

For the challenge we’ve (my brother and I) have already picked the topic, set up the basic site and now we’re setting up a timeline for when we’re rolling it out. (Hopefully by October 1st) You’re right that the important thing is to simply get started and take action.

Looking forward to seeing how you guys progress with this new blog…

David September 13, 2011 at 7:53 am

I thought the topic was going to be unrelated to blogging/making money blogging. Blog/website design seems like it is too close to the genre you specifically wanted to include. You will be able to market to the same exact “blogging about blogging” community. I was really excited to see you guys do something completely different, but I guess you have to go with something you know something about. Good luck!

Corbett Barr September 13, 2011 at 8:09 am

Hey David, it’s a fair point. I don’t consider blog/website design to be in the same category as making money online, but the two certainly have a little overlap.

I should have addressed this in the post above, so thanks for bringing it up. In the end, we wanted to a) make a good business decision considering the interests, assets and audience we have and b) go with a topic people here were most interested in. We could have chosen another topic, but this seemed like the best fit for our goals, and the clearest path to generating revenue. As I point out in this post, those are important considerations.

This challenge will be interesting because as C.A. points out below, the market is quite saturated already. This will put our skills of differentiation and content development to the test. Also, if we gain anything from audience overlap, that will accelerate the process somewhat so the project can be completed in a compressed timeframe.

Anyone else have thoughts to share on this?

Brandon Freund September 13, 2011 at 8:56 am

I had the same feelings as David when I read this post. I do think it’s different enough to still fulfill your stated requirements, but I had a different hope.

One of the main struggles a new blogger has is building an audience from scratch. I was really looking forward to following you do this as it’s really the steepest part of the blogging process. It’s true that this new topic will appeal to every blogger whose already following you and will be impossible not to leverage for your success. Excellent idea for you, a little shy of groundbreaking for us (especially if we’ve been in the design industry for a while).

Nevertheless, I’m still in with both feet. I am excited to see how you differentiate yourselves in such an oversaturated market. It will give me confidence to enter other competitive markets of my own. I have a feeling you’ll still do well because we all already know you’re awesome and we’ll gladly choose you! You will quickly approach your first income goal, but the second might take a while as the rest of us are building a blog, and a reputation, from scratch.

C. A. Kobu September 13, 2011 at 7:57 am

Great challenge you took! It will be interesting to observe how you differentiate yourself with that topic when there is an inflation of blogs covering it. And some of those blogs are really good. I look forward to following your progress and also taking part in the MDBP.

Sarah Russell September 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

Corbett – I’ve always admired the great design that you’ve got going here and on all your other sites, so I’m definitely looking forward to hearing your take on this subject.

Thanks also for the framework for selecting and refining a blog topic. It’s definitely something that I can apply to my current site, as well as a future project I’ve got planned for next year as well :)

Steve@Affiliate Marketing Tips September 13, 2011 at 8:20 am

Corbett and Caleb,

Sounds like you have a pretty darn good idea for your $1MBP. Crowdsourcing at it’s finest, eh?

Love your ideas on use of a weighted matrix. This can really help people with no ideas to find that special one.

I had pretty much decided on an idea for a new blog even before you brought up the great idea of the 1MBP. Spent a lot of time doing keyword research. Getting an outline of ideas for articles (about 500+ now.. well over a years worth.) and planning design (which is sure to have some changes as you role out YOUR blog).

Bought my domain last night and I am very excited to get all this going. But I also want to take the time to do it “right” from the start. Thanks again for this opportunity. It is going to eb a lot of fun.

-Steve

Danielle McGaw September 13, 2011 at 8:22 am

I think this will be a good topic for you guys but I will be interested to see how you make it different from other blog design sites.

Just out of curiosity, when will the list of people who are participating be going up? I’m thinking of starting a new Tribe (Triberr) for this. I think that will be helpful for everyone who is in the the Tribe. I’d also love to start reading people’s accountability journals if they’ve started them.

Corbett Barr September 13, 2011 at 8:47 am

Hey Danielle, we’ll have a registration system up for participants starting next week.

Brandon Freund September 13, 2011 at 8:59 am

Danielle, if you’re interested, we’ve already started a Triberr tribe for this project. We have a niche, but it’s quite broad. If you think your project would be a good fit, we’d love to fit you in. You can check out more about what we’re doing towards the bottom of my post here: http://www.bigdogsinternetmarketing.com/blog/how-make-a-million/

Vic Magary September 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

Gotta be honest and say I’m a little disappointed with the choice. . . I really wanted to see you guys do something out of left-field like basket weaving or something not related to blogging. It seems to me that you already have a built-in audience for this topic and developing traffic for your new blog will not be the same as others following along who are truly building an audience from scratch.

That being said. . . I still love you guys and will be watching the process you go through from start to finish! Thanks!

Christal September 13, 2011 at 9:12 am

I had a blog about frugality I was going to do for this project but I after I downloaded your buisness plan workbook, I realized that that kind of blog wouldn’t be the right fit for what I was trying to do. Then today I come here and read the way you picked your topic and applied it to myself (listed my goals, then the characteristics the blog would have to have, then topics I was interested in), did the process of elimination and found something that I believe could be a winner :) thanks so much you guys, I look forward to continuing on with you all!!

Daniel September 13, 2011 at 9:13 am

Oh! Thanks for the link on the WADM! I get tired of explaining this to people online or on a napkin :) Now I can just send them a link!

Corbett Barr September 13, 2011 at 9:19 am

NP! Yeah, it’s a pretty cool little guide I found yesterday. Very helpful.

Jo September 13, 2011 at 9:20 am

Same as Vic above and a few others, I’m a bit disappointed that it’s not a completely fresh start, but a topic related to this blog. It’s always easier to build something when you already have an audience. It’s just not quite the same as for most of the other participants who are starting with probably no audience and are building their blogs from scratch.

Industry saturation is definitely a big thing and it will be interesting to see what your USP will be like.

Marios September 13, 2011 at 9:37 am

Corbett been reading your blog for some time now, and this topic is perfect, I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with…blog/website design Rock on!!

Dave Doolin September 13, 2011 at 9:42 am

Questions:

* Is this limited to WordPress.org-type blogs? Or will other platforms such as Tumblr, Posterous, WordPress.com & others be treated in detail?

* Are you going to go beyond UI into UX? There is a desperate need for UX people in my neck of the woods, so much so that without serious VC cash, or having a very close friend who practices UX professionally, the rest of us are feeling pretty cold.

I could have more, will wait to see how it plays out.

Corbett Barr September 13, 2011 at 9:46 am

None of the details are decided yet Dave, but great questions. We’re planning to discuss things internally and narrow the topic / define our USP. We’ll have a full write up on the decisions to follow.

Great points of yours here to consider, so thanks.

Stephanie September 13, 2011 at 10:48 am

I’m glad to hear what your topic is but I find myself lacking interest in your topic because it’s already something I’m familiar with and do as my job. While I know there are plenty of people that are in need of that sort of knowledge, I somewhat wish the chosen topic was a bit more out of the box and stepping a bit out of your comfort zone.

I understand the business aspect and the fact that your audience here will likely take interest and become your audience at the new blog. However, I think in the audience aspect, you are really going back on your goal of building a thriving audience if you’re just moving from people from one blog to the next. Most bloggers today (not all, but most I read) aren’t web designers. Following a respectable guy like yourself in making money and now in blog design, it’s natural.

I just don’t know how much I will get out of this challenge even if I’m still going to proceed with it. I feel like there’s an advantage to your topics being closely related (as anyone that is reading this blog or doing this challenge will likely be a follower of your new blog) where as a lot of people here may be starting from scratch with no previous audience. The numbers will be skewed. But I still look forward to how you will handle this.

Stephanie @ Passive Income Results September 13, 2011 at 11:01 am

Ew, I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with Think Traffic’s audience – we ARE the ones who voted for this topic, no?

How about we just revert to being psyched that there is a project we get to join for free and knowledge we are also going to be gaining for free in order to hopefully produce a profit down the line?

I’m really not sure how anyone can be let down by something that hasn’t even been put up yet. A blog is a blog and a niche site is a niche site. Regardless of topics for either – there is still a daunting process to become a successful entrepreneur at either. Let’s watch the process and not place so much emphasis on the topic. In the end, personally, I just want to see a successful process in building a successful million dollar blog.

Thanks again for the challenge, Corbett & Caleb!

Stephanie September 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

I agree with you. In my comment, I didn’t mean to sound any less grateful for the free information and the extra work they’re taking on to build a new blog and let us watch. However, my own disappointment (not speaking for others) is not a question about their topic but a question on if we’re starting on equal footings. Again, the purpose was to show us how to get a thriving audience and how to build a profitable blog. I think the general consensus is that since Think Traffic’s audience can easily need the information Corbett provides in his new blog, it sort of defeats the whole lesson.

However, you are right. We should appreciate what is here and now and the fact that this is a gift sort of that a lot of other bloggers would charge for. And it is about the process and not about the numbers so much. However, the number proves the process. But anyways, you are right about at least trying to sound more grateful.

Danielle McGaw September 13, 2011 at 11:30 am

Well, said!

David September 13, 2011 at 11:47 am

I’m disappointed as well, disappointed that this topic was selected.

“A blog is a blog” and a “niche site is a niche site” does not apply here. Corbett and his team will be able to completely leverage the think traffic audience to launch this blog because a very high percentage of the audience here will be interested in a blog/website design blog (especially since I’m sure they will do an awesome job).

This will make launching the blog and getting traffic to it so much easier, which is the hardest thing to do when starting a blog.

No matter what topic was chosen, the ThinkTraffic.net community will be leveraged, but if an non-internet marketing topic was chosen, this effect would have been lessened and the entire project would be more valuable to everyone involved.

I am still interested in the project and very thankful that it is being done.

Alfred September 13, 2011 at 11:03 am

Will be interested in seeing how you make the “difference” with that new site… By the way, Corbett: Would be possible join to this project if blog is intended to people on an idiom different to english (written in spanish, i mean)?
This is definitely something I’d like to test in my mother tongue… Do you think it is viable?

Corbett Barr September 13, 2011 at 11:23 am

Hey Alfred, of course, you can participate with a Spanish blog. Joining in might be a little different for you because most people in the project won’t be able to read your blog, but you can definitely follow along.

I’m not very familiar with the Spanish blog market, but I’m sure you could build something viable in Spanish. Let us know how it goes.

Corbett Barr September 13, 2011 at 11:22 am

Hey everybody, just a quick note, we’re enjoying this discussion. All comments and viewpoints are appreciated. Keep letting us know what you think. Anyone else have a comment about our topic selection?

Phil September 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Don’t know if this has been previously addressed or not, but are you going to be linking (or even mentioning the domain) to the site from here? If so, it seems like that would give an unrealistic boost to building traffic and subscribers, especially when so many people who visit this site are interested in blogging/design. Presumably, other people who are doing this project in parallel would not have the same jump start mechanism.

Jay Piecha September 13, 2011 at 11:26 am

I’m excited regardless, but I was definitely hoping for a topic that was further removed from blogging/making money online, etc.

Still looking forward to watching you kick some ass, but would have been cool if it was underwater basket weaving, or DIY rocket ships.

Stephanie @ Passive Income Results September 13, 2011 at 11:38 am

@Stephanie – I didn’t mean my comment in direct reply to yours. It just so happened to be that we were posting at the same time. :)

My point is simple. While Think Traffic does have a relatable audience to the chosen topic…

1. The core point of the project is not how to choose a profitable blog “topic”.
2. Regardless of ANY topic chosen, we (Think Traffic’s audience) are going to visit their site in order to follow along. If the topic was how to make your own beer or design a blog – I’m following.
3. Common sense says that the audience here (at first) is going to distort the analytics of ANY chosen topic.

And last but not least 4. Last time I checked – our own blogs are going to be given an opportunity to gain a backlink from a very high PR site such as…Think Traffic. Uhm…thank you Corbett & Caleb.

Cheers!

Stephanie September 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Oh I didn’t take it personally. I just wanted to add to the conversation more and weigh in on what you said. No worries there. :)

And you’re right. I didn’t even think about the backlink we’d get.

Thanks Corbett & Co.!

Kristie September 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I’m definitely disappointed! To me, this seems similar to the idea of making millions of dollars by selling books on how to make millions of dollars. The lessons won’t be nearly as transferable as they could have been. (You’ll be making money online in a business that exists only because other people also want to make money online!) I’d rather you show us how to market to the rest of the world, not just to other bloggers.

tim September 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Guys. I seem to recall Corbett saying he’d be using Get Clicky for his analytics. If that’s the case it will show exactly where his traffic is coming from and if they came from a search engine, the search terms they used. It will soon be pretty obvious if Think Traffic is pushing visitors to the new site!
I say good choice. Stick to what you do best. Sure I’d like to see Corbett dominate the basket weaving niche and make $1m but let’s get a reality check here!

I’m sure we’ll all pick up a load of useful stuff from the project so fair play to you Corbett!

Francis O'Reilly September 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Excellent point Tim about using Get Clicky to distinguish the traffic sources.

It would be great if Corbett could publish a set of stats that *exclude* traffic and revenue originating from Think Traffic and its related resources in the accountability log. Otherwise my scepticism (re. my comment on the original challenge announcement) remains undimmed!

Still interested in following this challenge though as a masterclass in blog building, so many thanks to Corbett for putting this all together.

David September 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I can appreciate both sides to this discussion but I have to admit I’m really disappointed in the topic chosen. In my opinion it’s too closely related to blogging and making money online.

I really felt that this was an opportunity for ThinkTraffic to destroy the myth that you can only make money online by talking about blogging and making money online by doing something very unique and different.

Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong but the routes for monetizing the blog will seem to be a little too predictable… web hosting affiliates, domain affiliates, how to build website ebooks etc

From a business point of view it’s a great move, I think this blog will obviously link in well as a sister blog to thinktraffic and I can’t help but feel that may have played too big a part in the descision process.

I think a blog topic that you’d never associate with making money online would have been a much more entertaining and inspiring choice than the current one.

Sarah O September 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I have to agree that I’m slightly disappointed in the topic choice – not because I’m not interested in it and won’t benefit from the information – but because like many other commenters I was looking forward to seeing how you managed to gain a big subscriber base for the new blog that was not about blogging. If it was on a completely unrelated topic, even a popular one like fitness, you would have had to really start from scratch to build a subscriber base.

On second thought, maybe that’s not completely true. Whatever topic you chose you would have dozens or hundreds of built-in subscribers just in everyone who is following this challenge. But then you would have had to reach out to an audience that might not spend so much time reading blogs.

In any case, good luck. Looking forward to the challenge and to the momentum building for my own baby blog.

Leah September 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Oh, I hope not to be burned at the stake for this one, but neither Caleb or Corbett are designers!

I’d prefer to get this type of information from a real, practicing graphic designer, with an art background and a portfolio of working on lots of different types of companies, individuals and websites. I’d like to see inspiration that isn’t derived from what wordpress and woo themes have available that day. I don’t want my blog to look like millions of other blogs who apply your techniques!

Onibalusi Bamidele September 13, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Corbett is actually a designer, and not just any designer but a great one! He designed this blog, ManvsDebt among many others. You might want to check some of his earlier posts to have an idea.

Julz September 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Hey! Great to know the topic, I like it!

I have just got a woo theme on my blog, so hopefully I will get some good ideas to design my blog as well as get traffic and write epic content in the process! Talk about win / win! :-)

I have nailed my niche / usp and looking forward to getting registered and hopefully claiming top spot on the leader board! Ha!

I have a lot to learn, let’s get this show on the road! :)

Will September 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm

From reading the comments I can see I’m not the only one disappointed in your topic choice. I think a lot of us were really expecting a topic that would require you to generate a whole new following of readers that would have no crossover from this blog.

30-day expert blog, Learning anything rapidly, simple living, building an iPhone app… all these topics would truly require you to start from scratch – and that’s what we wanted to see, you building a $1m blog from ZERO.

With blog/web design you’ll immediately gain a whole heap of subscribers from this blog.

Eden September 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I’m glad your doing this because we’re all learning something which adds to our success. However like some here I was hoping/expecting something outside of blogging/internet marketing…I think many of the folks here are starting from outside these niches (me included) and be great to know how to attack this from figuring out the USP to writing the first post, the whole “angle” and direction forward. Seems like blogging design is too close to what you guys are doing here. Again, not a moan…just an opinion :)

Jared Dees September 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm

I have to say that I’m a little disappointed too. There are so many great niches out there, this one seems just a little too easy. In the end this is really going to help bloggers in every niche, but I have to admit I was hoping to see an example of how to grow something big in a niche whose audience isn’t bloggers. But if the goal is to build a million dollar business online, there is no better market than bloggers.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to watching this develop as well as the other participants in the project.

Great comments on differentiation/USP, by the way. This has always been a valuable piece of advice from you Corbett.

Wells Baum September 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I get my blogging ideas from reading every morning. Papers first, then RSS, then blog.

Kevin September 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I think it’s a great topic, but it’s not as adventurous as I hoped. It’s kinda like selling shovels to the goldminers instead of grabbing a shovel and digging yourself.

But I don’t want to be too negative about the choice. It’s an interesting topic and I’ll certainly be following along.

Justin S September 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm

On on hand, the chosen site could be a great asset to everyone participating in the $1MBP. Since so many of us are in the process (or about to be in the process) of starting a new website, it’ll be great to follow along and get some design advice as we build our blogs.

On the other hand. I’m actually a bit disappointed in the topic chosen. I was incredibly excited to see how a pro goes about breaking into a niche where they previously had ZERO influence whatsoever. While web design is actually quite different from the MMO niche, you’ll still be able to leverage the influence you’ve already got and pull in the crossover audience.

That said, I think all of us who are complaining would do well to remember that the primary goal of this project is to make a million dollars. Corbett’s team had to make the decision with that goal in mind, and from a business perspective this does make sense.

Is there $1M to be made in the “how to brew your own beer niche?” Maybe, but I doubt it. Web design? Absolutely… if they put together a quality resource and then put together a program like they’ve done with Traffic School, I think they’ll be well on their way to the million.

Would have been really cool to see an unrelated niche though.

Devon September 13, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Really disappointed to see that you are using this as your blog topic as you will use us as your audience to start with and that will give you a boost and I can already see the blog being successful.
I’ll probably still continue to read it as you guys are great but I now feel like I may not participate.
I think alot of us feel cheated after your excellent description of what this project would be like.

Neil September 14, 2011 at 12:47 am

Blog/Web Design as a topic for the blog could be completely different to the making money online topic – as long as the focus is on the design side of things, rather than how to make money from a blog side of things.

Question though Corbett: are you going to be using the ThinkTraffic audience to jumpstart this new blog or are you going to be trying to keep the two blogs seperate for as long as possible?

Your survey results and decision in topic choice has given me lots of food for thought for my own $1MBP blog.

Corbett Barr September 14, 2011 at 12:55 am

Hey Neil, great question. As this project will be public from day 1, it won’t be possible to keep complete separation of audiences.

The only way to keep complete separation would be to start the new blog anonymously (using a pen name) and not to announce the URL on this site or through any existing channels. I’m not interested in running the new project that way because I want the whole project to be public and transparent.

James September 14, 2011 at 6:56 am

I agree with David. I too think your choice of topic is too closely related to internet marketing. Although it will be interesting to see how your site progresses, I think you’ve missed an opportunity to demonstrate how your traffic generation methods and apprach to building a site can be successfully applied to topic areas which don’t have any links to making money online.

Corbett Barr September 14, 2011 at 8:17 am

Alright everybody, thanks very much for the feedback. We appreciate the comments and will be addressing your concerns in the post coming up tomorrow. Cheers.

Kalyan September 14, 2011 at 11:11 am

Its good that things are heating up!! There’s so much to learn from this nomination itself.

Blog/Website design topic would certainly help newbies and definitely isn’t directly make money blog. That was my 2nd choice. I can’t complain on that topic.

Can’t wait to see what’s lined up for tomorrow’s post. Looking forward for Blog Registration. My 2nd post is up http://bloggingtoptrends.com/building-a-million-dollar-blog-my-personal-commitment-to-1mbp/

Brett Jarman September 14, 2011 at 8:32 am

Gotta love democracy! The people have spoken and now the people are speaking.

Methinks the boys have actually made it more difficult for themselves choosing a related topic. The fact that they already have a reasonable following is incidental to the challenge. It might mean it get’s off to a good start but they’ll need to sustain momentum to get to the magic million mark.

Design for Non Designers is a transient market so it will be much more difficult to retain reader interest than Think Traffic would. A non designer only needs to know so much before they either a) learn as much as they need to know and drift away or b) stop being a non designer and become a designer, in which case they outgrow the site and also drift away.

There’s only so much epic shit about design 101 that anyone can handle.

Power to you for taking it on. Enjoy being unplugged in the meantime Corbett.

Christopher September 14, 2011 at 11:32 am

I think it will no doubt be a kick-ass site and fits in nicely with your existing projects. And you obviously know what you’re talking about when it comes to design.

However, I have to chime in on the disappointed site of the debate. I was really looking forward to seeing how someone with your skills tackled a niche completely outside the internet marketing genre.

Jane C September 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm

We voted, they picked the topic that got alot of votes, don’t really see why everyone is complaining? Would we really have done it any differently ourselves?

Nothing wrong with healthy debate but post after post of ‘disappointment’ doesn’t really serve anyone well.

This is an awesome opportunity, and we have to realise that no matter what topic they chose Think Traffic would always have a starting base audience; most people will see upcoming posts regarding it when they visit the site, let alone everyone who is committed.

I say stop the moaning, let it go and get excited!
Cheers guys

June September 15, 2011 at 6:18 am

We voted for this topic, please pursue it!

This is one of the cleanest blog designs out there, clearly communicating it’s message without distractions.

Teach us to be unique instead of using a canned Wordpress template like 98% of blogs out there. You would be filling a huge unmet need. Most design resources are made by designers for designers.

NT September 15, 2011 at 6:36 am

I, too agree with the consensus here.

I think a lot of us were really looking forward to see the subscriber generation process. With the topic that was chosen, and the crossover between it and the already existing ThinkTraffic readers (us), we feel like we are getting slighted a bit. Without a doubt, whatever topic TT would have picked would have a base audience built in b/c of the people following the $1MBP, but with Blog Design, that audience directly markets us, and already existing TT users, so that base audience is even bigger.

Reader generation is and finding followers will be one of, if not the most difficult part of the process. It would have been more beneficial to see something build from as close to the ground up as we could have gotten it.

Then again, woe is me, because I managed to completely miss the voting! This will still be an amazing experience and project, just not exactly what a lot of us signed up for.

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 September 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

There’s a great resource I think could help people on their quest to find the topic that’s perfect for them and the under served marketing gap they’re looking to step into.

“Your Hidden Wealth” by Jay Abraham is a 6 part course that’s sole purpose is to help you expose all the assets you bring to the table that you may not be aware of.

This is a Nightingale Conant course and I’m pretty sure if you cruise to their site, you’ll see you can buy it there.

Mark Conger September 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Actually, I mistakenly thought the topic was going to be announced today, not Tuesday, so I’m just now finding out.

Having submitted a topic myself and planning to participate with a different topic I did not submit (too afraid it would be selected) I am pleased that the decision has been made so we can get going.

I’m NOT disappointed in the topic selection. Although, I understand why some would be. Keep in mind, however, that the topic is not the tell all. It’s the quality of the content. Quality rules. If Corbin and crew can crank out the killer stuff, the topic will take on a greater importance.

Let’s strap in and get ready to work.

Steven Leconte September 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I think I’m going to do something around real estate. I’m just not sure how I will call it.

Jesse September 17, 2011 at 9:17 am

It sounds like a good topic to me. And I think with huge increase in the number of people starting blogs it’s logical that there would be room for an authority on a certain aspect of blog design.

For example, now that my blog is up and running I’ve been spending a ton of time writing and researching for content, and I don’t have as much time as I’d like to play around with the design details. (Having another company to run and a family to spend time with, etc.)

Things like squeeze page creation and optimization, how to design an effective email list signup form and where to place it, and other similar things that could help a beginning blogger get their site looking (and functioning) more like a pro blog.

Yael September 18, 2011 at 5:42 am

I understand the people saying they’re a little dissapointed with the topic chosen, but at the same time I’m pretty excited, because my blog is going to be about the same topic! (BUT in Hebrew)
So I’m happy.

Looking forward to hear what the bext step is.

Yael

James Curtley September 19, 2011 at 4:14 am

Excellent article! You are absolutely bang on about the need a niche that you can get passionate about. One of my coaches told me that attitudes are contagious and I needed to make sure mine was worth catching. We can’t expect our team to be more excited than we are nor can we expect them to do more than we are prepared to do.

Dave September 20, 2011 at 3:02 am

hey .in .us .uk are top level domains ? as same as .com domain ?

steve September 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I’m thinking to start a food blog, but there are soooooo many of them out there and when i tried to look for a food word related domain name, it’s all taken.

Zeeshan October 9, 2013 at 10:19 am

Choosing your hobby as the blog theme is really not very good. I did that and Google sends me very few visitors on my engineering site. I struggled with my niche, the ones listed here really helped. Thanks for posting!

Sarah September 13, 2011 at 8:27 am

Well on the one hand it’s good because it has nothing to do with my blog. On the other hand it’s really bad. There are so many of these sites out there, this is nothing new and blogging is so close to making money, so I completely agree with David. I already read quite a few of these type of blogs so I can’t see what another one could bring.

I really thought you were going to go with something a bit experimental and therefore challenging.

Disappointed.

David September 13, 2011 at 8:28 am

Sounds good Corbett and thanks for recognizing/addressing this.

There is so much information out there about “blogging about blogging” and it often comes from people that have never blogged about anything else. This makes bloggers like myself and others who are blogging about other topics feel a little disconnected on how to apply principles and strategies, which is why I was so excited when I heard about this project.

In any event, I think there will be a lot to learn here and of course, a blog about “website design” is not the same as “blogging about blogging”.

C. A. Kobu September 13, 2011 at 8:36 am

Actually, considering your goals here, it’s perhaps one of the best among the suggestions made. Maybe that’s why many of us here instinctively voted for that option. When your new blog/website design blog takes off, it’s going to be a part of the business ecosystem you’ve been building. The audiences of this blog and the new one will probably intersect a lot and both audiences will be potentially interested in taking your affiliate marketing and/or and traffic course. And lots of cross-selling might take place. Is that how you were thinking?

I’ll be following a somewhat similar approach. I won’t take part in the challenge with a blog that’s totally unrelated to my current one, but the new blog will fulfill a different need. And it will help another specific audience with a specific problem. I think the audience of my new blog will/should be a good match for most of the products I’m already working on for my current blog so that I can maximize my efforts and time in general.

Cristina Ansbjerg September 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

Sorry to say but I agree with David and Sarah. I’m a little bit disappointed. The chosen topic is so close to what you already blog about that it doesn’t seem like a challenge. It might be a good business decision but not a challenge at all.

Kirk Eisele September 13, 2011 at 11:05 am

Have to add my voice to the disappointed chorus. Feels like you backed off of the original premise of the challenge for yourself a bit. Or, perhaps we read more into the challenge than you intended. By choosing the topic you have chosen you essentially target the same audience as Think Traffic. For that matter, you end up targeting the people following along with the challenge as well. That is a good business choice but, like others, a lot of what I hoped to gain through this process is watching how you learn about a NEW audience and build your success in a NEW arena. With this choice you leverage your existing site/experience so heavily that the experiment is unlikely to be as relevant to those starting from scratch as it could have been. Will I continue to follow along? Sure… Can’t help feeling like the aspect that was the most interesting to me just disappeared though. Now your advice on breaking into a new niche is only going to be theoretical because you won’t really be doing it. You are not starting from the same place most of us are with this choice. You have a leg up and that makes a huge difference I’m afraid. Quite frankly this topic could very easily just be a category of posts on Think Traffic and fit right in.

My grumbling aside, this is something you are doing which we are fortunate to follow along in whatever form it takes. I look forward to learning but wanted to give honest feedback too.,

Caleb Wojcik September 13, 2011 at 8:59 am

Hey Sarah, I want to be clear that with this site we are not going to focus on “how to blog” or anything like that. We are strictly going to focus on “blog design for non-designers”. I think the blog community could use more help how to create a simple, pleasing to the eyes design by themselves.

A lot of blogs are designed with less than $100 invested and you can still have a great look and ease of use for your site without breaking the bank on a custom design until it is feasible.

Daniel September 13, 2011 at 9:11 am

I am going to jump on this ‘disappointed’ wagon as well. I still think this series is going to be awesome and thankful you are doing this…BUT i was hoping for something far removed from this space. Like the ‘beer brewing’ or something.

Josh Kohlbach September 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Agreed, I was MOST looking forward to how they were going to break into that new niche without any prior success.

I expect we’ll see a bunch of backlinking and visitors from TT and other existing websites being that it’s so related. Unless I’m wrong and you won’t be linking to the new site at all from ThinkTraffic?

Still, I’m looking forward to seeing everything take shape in the coming months!

Kirk Eisele September 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm

While the traffic overlap could be an issue I think what really feels like a leg up to me is their intimate understanding of this online audience. In a new niche, the customer profile would likely be different enough that the trial-and-error for conversion and content would be most like our experience of discovery. With this niche however I think they will be able to largely just apply the Think Traffic insights directly to the new site and sales. That makes perfect business sense but lessens some of the learning opportunity for us watching and decreases the “We’re all in the same boat” factor.

Certainly there is pressure to perform and I’m sure the risk of not having a solid return on their effort is much lower on this path.

This choice just leaves me feeling like I climbed up to the high dive platform with a buddy who said they were going to dive and they just did a toothpick instead! Sure, they still jumped but the bravado kind of evaporated when they looked down!

OK… that last bit might be on the harsh side… just having some fun with it. I know I’m just lucky this is available at all! Thanks guys… seriously. Appreciate whatever you’ll share of how you work the magic!

Leah September 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

I get that they’ve made blogs for other people in the past, but I could put together a blog almost exactly like this one (or Man vs. Debt) with relative ease (and access to PhotoShop for things like the Traffic School button).

Check out this blog: http://www.whereisjenny.com/

Then compare it to http://www.pocketchanged.com/

Who would you rather learn website design from?

Corbett and Caleb are masters at their craft: internet marketing and personal finance, respectively. But they are not graphic designers.

Josh Kohlbach September 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Hey Corbett, on further reflection to my comment above earlier, I think what most people like Neil here are wanting to know is if you’ll be linking extensively to the new site from ThinkTraffic or trying to build it up separately (like a new blogger would).

Afterall a link from ThinkTraffic would be a godsend for a new site SEO-wise and will certainly effect things down the track.

Either way, I think it’s going to be a great experiment.

Gregory C. September 19, 2011 at 7:16 am

Same here, original topical blogs are far more challenging than blogs that have anything to do with blogging.

Neil September 19, 2011 at 8:15 am

Yep Josh, that’s what I was wondering alright. The whole project is a great idea and I’m sure for those of us who follow along it will be very interesting to see what the TT team will be suggesting in terms of steps.

I suppose the only difference will be that the new TT blog will get much bigger results, much quicker than anybody following along because of leveraging the TT audience. That said, I still think it will be very instructional and interesting and I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve been thinking of doing a blog as part of the project however I liked the idea of there being a little bit of competition to see who could be the most successful in the project but I guess that’s still possible between everyone following along!! :)

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