Niche

This is my 11th post for Blaugust.

I’ve been having a bit of a blogging identity crisis of late. Actually, it’s been going on for a while. There used to be a clear reason people came to my blog – I had a niche. I was a WoW player. I wrote about resto Druids, and sometimes hunters. I wrote guides on how to heal, tips for boss fights, the odd bit of theorycrafting, or gear advice. I got a fair amount of traffic to these kinds of posts, from search engines, regular readers and people linking to them from forums and such. My Warcraft Logs guide (which is actually up to date) and Resto Druid guide (from way back in MoP) are still, kinda sadly, two of my most popular posts each day.

It’s been a year since I’ve played WoW so, obviously, I don’t have a whole lot to say about it any more. Even in my last year playing Warcraft, I was pretty burnt out and posted sporadically. Over the last few years, my blog traffic has gone down…down…down. I’m a bit of a stats nerd and this graph is pretty depressing:

Cannot be Tamed yearly stats

It’s not so much that my views are low (they’re actually not bad), but the fact that they’ve been steadily dropping for the last 3 years, and dropping by a lot. I know, it’s not about traffic. It’s certainly not about money, as my one google ad I’ve hidden at the bottom of the page so as not to be obnoxious has earned about me about 5 (unpaid) dollars in the years it’s been there. Write for yourself, blah, blah, blah. But honestly, I like knowing that people are reading what I write. I appreciate the people who are regulars and friends, who stick around and comment more than those who come from search engines, but still, I feel like I peaked in 2012 and it’s disconcerting.

When I bring up the topic of falling blog traffic, people usually offer me two reasons for it. First, that blogging as a whole is becoming less popular. I’m not sure I believe that, and I really have no frame of reference other than my own blog. Second, I no longer have a niche. People don’t know what they’re going to get when they come to my blog. Sometimes I write game reviews – could be on a 4 year old indie game, could be on the latest Call of Duty. Sometimes I write about feminism, or what I’m playing, or The X-Files. I write about whatever’s on my mind rather than try to stick to a certain topic. The thing is, I like it that way. Just like with my videos – though my retro reviews are by far the most popular, I also want to talk about new games. Now that I’m not confining myself to WoW, I don’t want to confine myself to anything.

So… I guess I’m really just whining that my traffic has gone down, because I don’t really plan to change anything.

What do you think? Does a blog need a niche to be “successful”? Do you like when blogs stick to one topic rather than act as a stream of consciousness?

15 responses to “Niche

  1. I don’t think blogs really need a niche, but often they do not hurt. While you’re certainly sharp as a tack and talented as hell with whatever you write, when you wrote about WoW you wrote with a certain authority. You were obviously someone who knew the game inside and out, you were more than just a blogger, you were someone that could be looked on as almost a resource, your knowledge was that concrete. Just my bs guess, could be totally wrong.

  2. Let’s put it this way… to give you another plot point for your frame of reference… your last year’s 2014 total pageviews is higher than I’ve ever achieved since starting a blog in 2012.

    I also suspect that many of the NBI bloggers who started in these past few years have never managed that total either.

    Yes, blogging and the reading of blogs has become less popular, resulting in falling pageviews. Eyes have gone to Twitch, Youtube, Twitter, Reddit, plenty of other crowdsourced social media sites.

    As blasphemous as it may seem, WoW has become less popular as well, resulting in less people googling for WoW related info and presumably hitting upon your blog.

    As for whether blogs need a niche to be successful, well, I guess it depends on your criteria of success.

    Pageviews are often fed by the writing of guides – far more people google for a guide to help themselves than are interested in one person’s diary of their gaming, but conversely, I’m personally less interested into those tens of thousands of people coming to feed on that one resource, and more keen on the tens of recognizable names that are interested in me as a person and my thoughts on a regular basis, and are willing to exchange in a discussion on topics we mutually enjoy.

    I think it does help to have a certain amount of consistency, a couple of primary games or a way of looking at the world that is congruent with who you are as a person or player, or a certain style of writing, so that readers can associate and set up some expectations when they see your name or your blog’s name.

    But eh, digressions can be fun, and forgivable among regulars. And I’ve always been of the school of thought that says, the more posts one puts up, the more eyes will land on those posts regardless, so post away.
    Jeromai recently posted..Blaugust Day 12: A Dog That Farts Fire (Trove)

    • I definitely appreciate the regular readers, and the people who comment especially, but it’s hard not to be discouraged by numbers sometimes. I should probably look at them less. The majority of my traffic, even now, is to WoW guides. It makes me wonder why people are still looking for 3 year old gear guides… My average new post (a review or something) gets only a handful of views when it’s posted. It kinda makes me want to take the old guides down, but then I’d be really distressed by my stats.

      Guides certainly are the way to traffic. I had a big spike at the end of last year when I posted some Dragon Age Inquisition tips. It’s just disappointing when the posts I put the most thought and feeling into get the fewest views, but I guess that’s just the way it goes.

  3. Ahhh, I know this internal monologue well! So far I have always come down on the side of “fuck it, write what’s fun”. Readers are great, but not forcing myself to write about a particular topic is even better.

    Also I think you might be looking at your graph peak the wrong way. It’s not necessarily that you’re not writing about a niche (although that does help I think), it’s that WoW blog readers are pretty uninterested in reading about anything else. All of us who went from being a WoW blog to being a game/MMO/whatever blog can tell stories about being dropped like hot potatoes.
    Liore recently posted..#Blaugust 11: An 8-bit Kitchen post?!

    • Yeah, stupid WoW players. 😛

      On the other side of that, I read a lot less from the WoW bloggers, which I sometimes feel bad about as most of the people I know on Twitter are from WoW in some way. I still check in on my favourite blogs every now and then, and am interested in the general state of the game, but I read a lot less of those blogs now as well.

    • Word, Liore. I also went from popular, relatively high-traffic prot warrior blogger to generic blogger who writes what comes to my mind. The less views I got, the more deflated I felt and it’s pretty much changed me. On some days I don’t even consider myself a blogger anymore, as I don’t participate in blogging events like NBI or Blaugust anymore. Lack of time to really write a lot, lack of readers, it all adds up.

      For what it’s worth, I actually enjoy your blog more now than in WoW days (even though you did write some kickass guides). Keep on blogging and screw the stats. Keep on gaming!
      Kadomi recently posted..MMOs: My continued journey through FFXIV

  4. Like Jeromai, you have had many more readers than I have ever had, so take this from that perspective. Blogging is writing to a community. With World of Warcraft there was a huge community that consumed content but didn’t necessarily contribute much. The broader MMO blogging community is much smaller (as I write this I see the contradictory nature of it, but I still believe it is true), but there is a higher percentage of contributors. I hope, like Liore, you can just write what you enjoy and not get caught up in the number of readers but instead enjoy the community.
    Kanter recently posted..World of Warcraft Subscribers and Legion

    • Now you’ve touched on the second cause of my blogging identity crisis. The broader MMO blogging community is smaller than the WoW community, and the non-MMO gaming blogging community seems to be even smaller still. Though I’m part of a larger community through things like Blaugust, I don’t consider myself part of the MMO community, because I have zero interest in MMOs. So not only do I have less readers for not writing about WoW, it’s harder for me to find new blogs to read and interact with because they all seem to be about MMOs.

  5. I tend to stick around blogs that are more personality-rich, if that makes any sense. I found your blog through Navimie’s, and to be honest I didn’t really read it very often because you were focused on the high-level WoW niche, which I was only occasionally interested in. Once you started writing about things other than theorycrafting in WoW, that was when your blog became more interesting to me, and I like getting insight into your various interests and values.
    Dahakha recently posted..Steam Challenge – SpaceChem (Blaugust Day 12)

    • I try to do that too. I actually prefer the general interest gaming blogs, though I always thought that put me in the minority. So many people blog about MMOs that I often feel on the outskirts by completely avoiding them since I quit WoW.

  6. All the blogs that I’ve started and have failed to keep going was mostly because I tried to confine myself to a niche. You hear about it from the pro bloggers, that one must have a niche… but I’m not so sure I believe that anymore. If my blog’s niche is so narrow that I can’t explore, and I eventually stop writing… well, then I don’t have a blog anymore.

    When I re-established my current blog, I labeled it very loosely as a “geek blog” for my niche. I feel free to write about just about everything that falls under that umbrella, and that can be a lot. On the flip side, even a broad label like that tells the reader what they can expect. If they identify with games and geek stuff, then maybe they’ll enjoy the content on this blog.

    So, I do think having some sort of identifier is good. But I don’t think you should ever force yourself on a topic or back yourself into a corner where you end up never writing out of boredom or being burnt out.
    Aywren recently posted..Steam Challenge: Salt

    • That’s good advice. I admit that during the end of my WoW tenure when I felt like I had to write about WoW, but didn’t really even want to play it, never-mind write about it, I wondered where this blog would go and if I would even continue.

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