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:
- The list of nominations for the $1MBP from Think Traffic readers.
- Amazon’s list of bestselling books (and the full topic list in the left-hand sidebar)
- Your favorite blogs. If you already read blogs on particular topics, consider creating a blog on a related topic yourself.
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
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.
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