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Vagabond Journey

Why Single Topic Blogs are Better

I recently went onto a blog about social media tips and tore right into the first article it featured. It took me until I was halfway through the article before I realized that it had nothing to do with Twitter, the site’s main topics. It was about some horror movie writer or something like that, [...]

I recently went onto a blog about social media tips and tore right into the first article it featured. It took me until I was halfway through the article before I realized that it had nothing to do with Twitter, the site’s main topics. It was about some horror movie writer or something like that, and though it was not necessarily a bad article but it came off like a fart in a prom dress. It just didn’t match the rest of the site; it wasn’t what I was expecting.

I automatically clicked away — gone, easy as that.

blogging-tipsIt then became obvious to me that my readers probably approach my sites with the same harsh judgement. If I don’t give them exactly what they are looking for, they probably click away.

I then realized that if I have a blog that says it’s about Twitter tips then it damn well better be all about Twitter. If I want to start doing interviews with screenplay writers then I should start a blog about movies or stick it in a variety type personal blog.

I learned this lesson the hard way. For year and years I ran and maintained a super-blog, which is to say: a blog that covered just about every topic I felt like writing about. While it mostly focused on travel, I stretched this topic to its furthest extents. I would publish travel narratives next to travel tips, gear reviews next to philosophical rants, journalistic articles mixed in with personal blog posts. I realized that I was alienating readers with this extreme variety, not providing them with options as I previously thought.

Forbes.com can handle dominating 100s of micro-topics, as can wired.com and other Big Brand sites, but VagabondJourney.com could not. After tracking reader engagement for a period of time it became evident that I was hooking readers with some topics and driving them away with others. My site lacked a clear focus, and I found myself treading water with it for a number of years: we’d gain a reader just to lose a reader.

What I needed was focus. So I evaluated the site and came up with a handful of parent-topics and branched each out into it own site. Now, for the readers who like travel tips and how-to-travel instruction, they can go to Travel Tips Book; for readers who want to read about air travel, they can go to AirTraveler.org; for travelers on the hunt for the best gear, then Trusted Travel Gear is the place for them; for those who want to become a digital nomad, this is the site for you; and for those who like my philosophical rants, they can read my personal blog. For those who like it all they can subscribe to the network feed.

While this move essentially divided up my reading audience, it also allowed me to give each topic the individual attention and cultivation it needed, and a way to deliver to reader the exactly the type of content they’re looking for, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

Single topic sites are better for monetization

Another advantage of single topic, super focused sites is the fact that they are far easier to make money with. The value of advertising/ affiliate marketing is directly connected to relevancy. Punto. Once you have the topic of your site(s) whittled down you can devise an appropriate monetization strategy.

There is no single monetizations strategies work equally well for all types of content. Adsense performs better on some type of articles, while affiliate banners work better for others. By separating out your blogging topics into individual sites you stand to launch radically different monetizations strategies for each topic.

On a single topic site there can be a direct correlation between the topic of the content and the topic of advertisements, and a bridge can easily be built between the reading audience and the provider of a product or service. In point, on a site that’s only about air travel, you can go all out with affiliate programs for plane ticket search engines and vendors.  On this site, I recommend the products and services that I use as I make my living as a digital nomad, which is directly related to its content.  The chain of relevancy between content and promoted products and services is direct, and the affiliate banners perform way better here than they would on a mixed topic site.

Conclusion

Patience is no longer a virtue of the blog consumer, there are simply too many options out there now, fierce competition in almost every niche, and if you think someone is going to wade through a sea of articles they have no interest in until they find what they’re looking for, guess again. Media is an immediate demand marketplace: you give the reader what they want when they want it or  they go elsewhere. Sharping your blog’s focus down to a razor sharp point is one of the best ways to make it in this game.

Filed under: Blogging, Digital Nomad, Traveling Webmaster

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3422 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

8 comments… add one

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  • Josh October 10, 2012, 11:55 am

    So have you paid for all your extra websites i.e. do you have to pay your hosting and domain fees for each of the new creations or do they all come under the same hosting package? I remember you said you created 19+ plus websites, and the hosting fees are around $6-9 a month, combined with the costs of protecting your sites and buying the Genesis theme. That must be a huge overhead cost. I don’t really understand how web hosting works yet, so forgive any naivety on my part!

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    • Wade Shepard October 10, 2012, 12:32 pm

      Hello Josh,

      The additional costs are pretty minimal. Most all (good) hosting companies allow for running multiple domains under one package. We have our own server so we could run a thousand sites at no additional cost. All of the sites run out of only two installs, so it’s not too much of a coding hassle either. As for the Thesis framework, that was a one time fee and doesn’t cost any more money no matter how many sites we use it with. So the only additional costs we face here is paying $12 or so a year for each domain name — which is made up for in full by the fact that we’re able to run more targeted monetization strategies on each site.

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      • Josh October 10, 2012, 4:27 pm

        Is the more targeted monetization working? I imagine with fewer keywords to establish it’s easier getting ranked in Google and so your affiliate products will generate higher click through rates. HostGator pay good rates for affiliates

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        • Wade Shepard October 20, 2012, 12:32 am

          Hello Josh,

          Yeah, it seems to be working. The network sites haven’t been officially “launched” yet, I’m just building them now and linking them from VJ so regular readers will know what’s going on. Attracting traffic that’s targeted to an entire site rather than just a collection of pages is far easier to capitalize on.

          Right on about Host Gator, they pay very good affiliate rates. They are also the company we have a dedicated server with, and can vouch for their service.

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  • Sylvain October 14, 2012, 11:54 am

    Hi Wade!

    This post of yours came just in time. In the last 2-3 weeks, I’ve been working hard on structuring my own blog for a launch next month and a departure next year…

    I was to put everything under one roof… even if the thought of hurting my Google ranking was present in my mind. But I didn’t really give a thought in regards of the monetization.

    I will take a hard look on splitting my streams as well. Being a programmer, I do everything on my own (programmers hate using ready-to-use tools) and I’m working right now on the structure. Changing to a multi-site approach will require minimal effort on the programming side… will be more demanding to change the front-end (look of the new sites).

    What about social networks, like Facebook, do you maintain separate presences there too?

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    • Wade Shepard October 20, 2012, 12:35 am

      Hello Sylvain,

      Man, I’d like to maintain individual social media streams for some of the additional sites, but I hardly have the resources to keep up with the one I have. So, for now, our social media campaigns are all under one roof. When we have our own products to ship from some of the network sites, I may consider starting up new social media channels.

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  • Worldfamilytravellers October 19, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Wade,
    These are great tips. I’ve been working on our blog for about a year and have been a little disappointed by the money I’ve made with adsense. At first, my blog was very targeted, primarily doing hotel reviews for places we’ve stayed. I had some good comments and seemed to show pretty high on google searches. As I ran out of content, I started adding other interests; food, golf, etc. I’m having difficulty figuring out what gets readers to my blog and what keeps them coming back. Tough way to make a living, so my hat goes off to you.

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    • Wade Shepard October 20, 2012, 12:57 am

      Yes, it’s incredibly difficult to make money blogging. I really don’t recommend it. It’s kind of like climbing a mountain that’s always growing higher faster than you can get up it. There are all kinds of “make money blogging” books and resources out there, but, ultimately, it’s like trying to become a professional athlete. It’s possible, sure, but . . .

      Getting the traffic is the hard part. If you can get a steady stream of people coming in (3k+ each day) you can do something with it, but getting this kind of traffic means a lot of work. I have a good blogger friend who says that if you put up two to five pages per day for a year that you’ll start to make money. While that’s still true, the game is far more complex than this now.

      I’d say first you have to get off blogger. To be honest, I don’t click on through to .blogspot sites and I won’t link to them. Advertisers are also more hesitant to place ads with them. After you do this find a niche that not many people are playing in. The Specific destination blogs are good, as are those with a single main topic. Don’t diverge from the blog’s main topic too much, start new sites or a general topic, personal style blog to cover the rest of what you have to talk about.

      That said, my main site, VagabondJourney.com, is so massive and old that I can pretty much write about anything I want on it and it’ll rank fine. But if I did that with the new sites they’d probably get nowhere. This is a new era of blogging, (targeted) content is king.

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