Niche Blog vs. Social Blog

Niche Blog vs. Social Blog

I received an email yesterday that asked:

I’m still a bit confused as to what makes a social blog a social blog. Is Steve Pavlina’s blog considered a social blog? Or John Chow? Is a social blog a blog about blogging/something related to that?

While I answered the email, I wanted to expand my response out into a post that explained what my philosophy was on these two blog types.

The content of most blogs does revolve around a niche of some type. This may be making money online, blogging, fishing, cycling, dieting or any other topic. The topic might even be the author themselves to some degree. However, the content isn’t what separates a niche blog from a social blog, it’s the promotional method that’s used. Is a blog being socially promoted or promoted by niche content?

A Social Blog

Social Blogging is relating to peopleA social blog will rely heavily on getting traffic from social media like StumbleUpon and Digg, social networking widgets like MyBlogLog and EntreCard and referrals from other related blogs and sites. There is a strong focus on getting RSS subscribers and return visitors. The end game is on building a large reader base and having sort of a minor cult of personality around the author.

The content needs to be top notch and regularly updated to retain an audience. Poor quality content, excessive paid content and so forth will diminish return traffic, reduce RSS subscriptions and increase the bounce rate of the site.

Social blog Google traffic is typically low, less than 20% of the total traffic the blog receives. The blog will only rank well on it’s own name and the author’s name. Most of the other searches will come from odd ball long tail searches.

Successful monitization will usually be based around promoting offers to regular readers, selling paid reviews or the sale of the author’s services or products due to their reputation. Contextual advertising, such as Google Adsense, and affiliate offers that are common across similar blogs will typically not do very well.

A Niche Blog

Laser focused on a nicheA niche blog is specifically designed to obtain search traffic from Google that relates to a specific niche’s keywords. Traffic from social media and referring sites isn’t needed or wanted since it can have a negative impact on the site’s monetization goals. The entire purpose of such a site is to make money by converting search traffic to dollars, it’s not to socialize. The ‘end game’ here is to set up a blog that generates a certain dollar amount a day on an ongoing and reliable basis.

The content needs to be laser focused on a particular set of niche keywords. Content quality is relatively unimportant. While it can’t be generated search engine spam, it can be on a very superficial level. Once this content has gained traction in search results it doesn’t need to be updated that regularly. Occasional updates can be helpful, either through new articles or comments, to keep Googlebot interested but that’s about it.

Google traffic will account for over 90% of a niche blog’s traffic. The blog will need to rank well, preferably in the top 10, for a number of keywords and long tail terms related to the target niche.

Successful monitization will be built around well targeted contextual advertising (aka Adsense) and/or an affiliate offer related directly related to the target niche.

Can a Blog Be Both?

Can you be both social and niche?Yes, to some degree. You will find blogs around that do attract large number of both types of visitors. However, one or the other will usually emerge as the primary focus of the site because the motivations of social visitors vs. search engine visitors are so different.

Blogs can switch between being social or niche blogs. For example, my VB.NET site, VBNotebookFor.Net, was originally a social blog about programming. I moved my social blogging efforts to OpTempo and now VBNotebook is more of a niche blog. Likewise, you could begin to promote a niche blog socially and turn it into a social blog.

The biggest problem that you’ll face with trying to be both is monetization. You don’t want to use Adsense in most cases because the poor converting, quick bouncing, social traffic surges will probably cause your account to become ’smart priced’. The same can happen when regular visitors from the same IP addresses repeatedly click Adsense ads, trying to ‘tip’ you in a way. The best thing to do is to use affiliate offers and widgets that push products that you know that both your social and search traffic will be interested in.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is ‘niche blog’ a good term to use or would something like ’search engine blog’ be better? What do you see as the differences between these blog types? Are there hybrid types? Let me hear from you because, after all, OpTempo is primarily a social blog.


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Comment by Y. S.
2008-01-18 15:42:06

I’m sorry for dropping a question or a comment every time I read one of your posts, but I can’t help it. I’m new to this (blogging) and you sound professional. Plus, I’m used to commenting a lot because I spend a lot of time on forums.

There is nothing that a thread writer (in this case a post writer) likes than a good amount of comments which shows that there are people interested in your work and writings. Otherwise, why put all this effort in it in the first place?

By the way, are Amazon Ads better for “social” or “niche” blogs?

Comment by jfc
2008-01-18 16:57:18

Thanks Y.S.,

On the Amazon ads, I don’t recommend them at all. The payouts are too low and rather hard to get. There are so many better options. But, it would probably work best on a social blog where your online friends buy through the ad to support your site. But unless you have a ton of regular, loyal, visitors this won’t make you much money.

Comment by Grizzly
2008-01-18 18:01:52

Bang on Frank! An excellent post that couldn’t be explained more clearly or concisely. You are so right about monetizing a dual purpose site - very tough to do.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-18 22:33:24

Thanks Grizzly,

Going pure niche monetizes so much easier.

I’ve kind of gotten in the mode of slipping in ads here to try them out before I put them on a niche blog. I figure if the jaded crowd here clicks them they must be good ads. :)

Comment by Lin
2008-01-18 19:59:45

It’s been rather interesting when I check to see where my social/authority blog traffic is coming from. I don’t use adsense on my blog at all, and don’t ever plan to. Google search traffic is definitely on the increase, which I’ve been working hard to increase by learning about keywords, thus helping to build the “authority” part more. Checking my stats and seeing what keywords people have used that brought them to my posts (especially archive posts) really helps me to better learn keyword choice for future articles. Having people come to my posts from google searches, and finding comments from my subscribers/visitors helps draw more subscribers to my blog, so I think being both a social blog and authority blog has its perks. :)

Someone did a google search for “is helping and enabling the same thing” and my article “Are parents helping or enabling their adult children” is Numero Uno in the results. :) Using the keywords “helping and enabling” puts that same article on the first page at number 6. Yeah!

Comment by jfc
2008-01-18 22:26:33

Hi Lin,

Search results can be weird sometimes. I get a lot of “[blank] sucks” traffic here because of my BlogRush Sucks campaign. I’ll sometimes even be #1 for the term until someone like Griz or Vic decides they want that spot.

Having both social and search aspects will result in higher traffic but usually lower advertising revenue. For example, when I was pushing a lot of social traffic toward my programming blog I had twice as much traffic but earnings were lower than they are now.

Comment by Saedel
2008-01-22 15:19:25

Great post! Informative and useful, I could use this article in my future posts.

You are right about Google Traffic on social blog. My social site (click my name), received less than 20% from Google. However, lately, I’m receiving more hits from the Big G. It climbed up to 21% so far.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-22 15:32:46

Hi Saedel,

It’s been running about 8-10% here for Google search traffic. That was one of my main reasons for moving OpTempo into being more of a social MMO/Blogging blog rather than trying to be a hybrid which was my original plan.


OpTempo has gone back to being a hybrid blog and Google search traffic is at about 75-80%

Comment by Saedel
2008-01-22 19:06:46

I take back what I said Frank… After re-checking my stat, I found out the Google traffic for my site is not 21%, it’s a measly 8%! Sorry for the misinformation. I guess I was looking at something else before I posted my previous comment. *embarassed*

(Comments wont nest below this level)
2008-07-09 02:30:30

I wish I had learnt this sooner - I eventually took adsense off my social blog and its stopped me being priced - I think - its so hard to know with adsense!

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