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?
If we define “successful” by number of page views, then having a niche is going to be a contributing factor in whether or not large numbers of people are going to find your blog. We must also keep in mind that number of page views does not necessarily correlate with number of pages read. This is all quite obvious, but there may be a tendency on our part, as bloggers, to rely too heavily on some of the statistics with which we are presented.
If your niche is a specific game then you are going to generate quite a bit of traffic, especially if your blog comes up in any Google search results. For example, my other blog, The Mystical Mesmer, was at one time the number one result for the search phrase “Mesmer blog.” Naturally, the number of page views I received was artificially inflated to the tune of anywhere from 100 to 200 per day, usually settling within the 100-150 range. Update: I just checked on it and it’s sitting at number 2 right under guildwars2.com’s most recent summary on the Chronomancer. Of course it’s going to get page views – many of those people may take one look at my site and decide that they’re not at all interested in what’s there because they were looking for something else.
They were looking for someone who can do something for them.
That’s the difference, I’ve learned: you’ll attract more people if they think you can do something for them. If, instead, you decide to write whatever you want, you’re not going to attract quite as many people unless you somehow become an internet celebrity in which case you’re in the statistical minority, so don’t get your hopes up.
When it comes down to it, I could come up with a million clickbait titles and write news summaries and trollbait articles on controversial topics. Would this make me successful? I’d generate traffic and buzz and people would know my name. It’s not a blog I would read, though. I read blogs for the people who write them. If you’re a talented writer or a gifted story-teller or a cool person or you’ve shared something about yourself – perhaps something you consider to be a weakness – and that thing is also something that I, as a human being, have experience with, then the likelihood that I will read your blog goes up quite a bit. There are a few sources I read specifically for Guild Wars 2, but those sources are all official sites or fansites and typically feature a staff of contributors. By and large, though, I prefer to read about a variety of different things and whether or not you jump from topic to topic between posts or in the same post does not even show up on the radar of things I care about.
None of the personal sites that I currently read focus on one game exclusively with the exception of my own Guild Wars 2 blog. I don’t care about whether that site is successful; I’ve found that I enjoy writing fiction about the world of Tyria and occasionally talking about something that caught my interest. If I decided to dedicate myself to becoming a skilled player and covering game news and updates with more sincerity and frequency, would my traffic go up? Absolutely. With my post “Heart of Thorns: The Journey is the Destination,” I made a point of screencapping during the Heart of Thorns expansion announcement livestream and writing my blog post while the presentation was in progress. The livestream had not yet been completed (or my post, for that matter) when I smashed my face into the “Publish” button so I could beat Dulfy to the punch with the news (and I did). It’s in the top five for all-time page views of anything I’ve written on The Mystical Mesmer. When all was said and done, I came to the conclusion that the experience of having done so sucked.
Point is, if you want to be “successful,” go write about stuff that others want you to share with them.
If you want to be happy, write about the stuff that you want to share with others.