Blogging can be a powerful way for you to build your personal brand and increase the visibility of your company within your industry. Ideally, both at the same time.
Your end goal, of course, is to become a top leading expert on the topics that matter to your niche. And when you're first starting out, committing to a niche is important. You must own and dominate it.
Yet, a day will eventually come when you've exhausted your niche. You'll realize that you have finally worked "until you no longer have to introduce yourself," as the great anonymous once put it so eloquently.
If you've reached this point, you may want to start exploring topics that are outside of your core niche. After all, writing off-topic posts can have many benefits. To help you better understand this strategy, let's walk through some of the reasoning, as well as a few tips for getting started.
5 Smart Reasons to Create Content Outside Your Niche
Suddenly, I was no longer writing about marketing topics just on the WordStream blog. I was writing for major industry publications like Search Engine Land, Moz, Search Engine Watch, and Search Engine Journal about PPC, display advertising, social media marketing and advertising, and SEO.
At this point, I was thrilled when a blog post would become a "unicorn" -- getting tens of thousands of views, and absolutely thrilled whenever one would get a couple hundred thousand views.
This was a great achievement. But I soon realized I was hitting my own point of diminishing returns by writing about advertising and marketing. So I started going off-topic a couple of years ago. I started writing for Inc.com, mainly about startups and entrepreneurship -- which I'm ridiculously passionate about.
Now, suddenly, the unicorns were even more sparkly and amazing. When I'd hit a home run with a blog post, it might get a million views. And if I hit a grand slam with a blog post, it might get more than 10 million views.
Bottom line: What you lose in topical relevancy you'll make up for in volume.
2) You can start biasing future customers.
When you're creating content, there are a couple of types of people you need to think about:
People who know they need the product/solution you sell.
People who don't yet realize they need the product/solution you sell.
Writing about off-topics is a brilliant way to reach and start biasing that second group of people toward you and your brand. And that's why I started writing about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs probably aren't actively looking for articles about AdWords, but small business owners are definitely interested in marketing topics.
Writing about off-topics allows you to connect with people before they even need the types of services your company provides. By establishing a relationship through a shared interest now, you can increase the odds that later on those same people will come to you first and become your customers when the need arises.
3) You can increase your social media engagement.
If you're fortunate enough to write for a large publication such as Inc.com, which has millions of fans on Facebook and Twitter, you'll see your follower counts soar. All you have to do is write about interesting topics.
Every time Inc.com shares my content organically, I pick up more followers: When I started writing for the publication couple of years ago, I had less than 100,000 Twitter followers. Now, I have more than 300,000 followers.
Medium is another great platform to pick up new readers with your off-topic posts. Plus, publishing on Medium might help you get noticed by a publication with a large readership.
At the end of the day, having more followers gives you an even larger promotional vehicle for your on-topic content, so why not give it a try?
4) You can truly express yourself.
Going off-topic gives you the opportunity to share more about yourself.
Simply publishing generic posts doesn't cut it anymore. There's way too much competition. You need to think about the tone and style of your content.
In case you couldn't tell, I really like unicorns and memes. It's kind of what I'm known for.
I want my posts to be useful by including data and actionable tips. But it's equally important for me to write memorable posts, which is why I try to add some humor and use lots of visuals.
Remember: A little personality goes a long way and will make you more interesting.
5) You'll keep your sanity.
Once you've been writing for a few years, you'll find that it will become increasingly hard to come up with new and interesting things to say about the same topics.
Take me, for example. If I were just writing about nothing but AdWords features and tips for years, I'd go nuts.
Diversify! For the sake of your own sanity.
How To Get Started With Off-Topic Content
Now that we've covered why you need to write about a wider variety of topics, how do you get started?
Do your research. Before you expand, think about how the off-topic posts you want to write will help advance your career. What audience could you reach and how could that help you?
Find a way to set yourself apart from established influencers in the same space. How are you going to be memorable? Make sure you know what you want to accomplish and have a strategy to achieve your goals.
Once you sort through the initial research and planning, you'll need to nail down where you want to publish. To get started, do a search for popular sites that feature posts on the topics you want to write about. Read the sites and figure out their style and what types of article perform well.
To do this quickly and easily, you'll want to lean on BuzzSumo. With BuzzSumo, you can look into the top performing posts for any domain to generate a better understanding of what works well.
It's also helpful to take a look at a publication's guest blogging guidelines, as these typically offer insights around what type of content they are looking for. (Check out this post to learn more about the content submission process for 11 popular sites -- from The New York Times to Business Insider.)
When you send your email, don't just pitch one idea. Pitch a few original ideas with a unique angle to choose from. Or build off an existing article they've published:
I saw your great article on [topic] and wanted to see if you'd have interest in publishing an article about [topic] that I could write exclusively for you.
Look for content gaps and offer to fill those. Editors will be more receptive when you show that you've done your research. And if you're having trouble coming up with unique, interesting ideas outside of your niche, turn to these tips:
Use Twitter to audition topics. If you want to know whether you should invest your time writing about a certain topic, tweet about it on Twitter. If your tweet generates lots of engagement, then you can be confident that there's an audience interested in that topic. If your Twitter audition bombs, forget about that topic for now. You can always revisit it in the future.
Use BuzzSumo to discover topics. Again, BuzzSumo is a powerful tool that helps you discover which topics are super hot in any industry, and which posts are the most popular on individual websites. Yes, it's paid, but I'd consider it one of the wisest investments if you're serious about your content strategy.
Proceed With Caution
I can't leave without issuing one warning about off-topic posts: Don't overdo it.
The worst thing you can do is to lose focus. To prevent this, I'd suggest following the 80-20 rule, where 80% of the content you create covers your money "bread and butter" topics, and the remaining 20% of your efforts go toward off-topic content to establish yourself in a new niche.
Stay focused. And best of luck as you embark on your new journey and begin growing your influence in new areas.
Have you experimented with off-topic blog posts? Did you see positive results? Share your thoughts and experiences below.
Originally published Aug 10, 2016 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017