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The Main Differences Between a Blog And a Niche Site

By Chris Lee 68 comments

monoflat_icons_199If you read through my blogposts, you’ll notice that sometimes I refer to sites as blogs and sometimes I refer to them as niche sites.

The question I’ve been receiving quite often lately is, “What’s the difference?”

Well, there really isn’t any difference. A blog is a niche site. A niche site can be called a blog. A niche site can also be called an authority site. A blog can also be called an authority site.

Meaning there’s no difference between them besides what you choose to call them.

But for me, there’s a reason why I call some sites blogs and some sites niche sites.

This is purely based on my own way of thinking, but I’m pretty confident that you’re going to agree with my reasons why.

The real difference between a blog and a niche site

Again, a blog and a niche site is pretty much the same thing. The difference is only in the name.

However, there’s a reason why I call some sites blogs and some sites niche sites.

To me, there are a few major differences.

A blog is something like this site, RankXL, Kopywriting Kourse, Nomadic Matt, MichaelHyatt, OkDork, Backlinko, ViperChill.

A niche site is something like Greatist, Recode, The Simple Dollar, Art Of Manliness, and The Penny Hoarder.

Do you notice the difference?

The sites I listed as blogs are heavily tied to the influencer who created the site. It’s more like a personal blog, and people follow these sites because of them.

For example, on RankXL every post is personally written and published by me. My audience reads my blog posts because they want to learn from me, or hear what I have to say on a certain matter.

This is the same for every other site listed as a blog.

The influencer is the key focus of the blog. Without the influencer, there is no audience.

What would happen if I sold RankXL tomorrow?

My audience would disappear.

The buyer would need to creatively do something to keep the existing audience who was originally here to learn from Chris Lee, who is now gone.

A niche site, on the other hand, is followed for its content.

The readers usually don’t even know who the founder is. They don’t care.

But they choose to read and follow the blog because they like the content they’re putting out and/or they agree with the site’s mission and beliefs.

So what’s better? A blog or niche site?

Neither. To me, they’re completely different strategies and have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s go through a few.

You can develop quite a heavy following with a blog.

You’re able to develop a stronger influence as a person rather than a company. A blog can make the author quite famous, and well-respected on the internet.

For example, I’m sure you know who Neil Patel is, but you probably don’t know who Derek Flanzraich is. (FYI: Derek is the founder and CEO of Greatist, a growing health niche site with over 10 million uniques per month. Greatist has received $8M in funding so far, and is valued at much more than that.)

If Greatist were a blog revolved entirely around Derek, and was getting 10 million uniques per month, he’d be an internet celebrity… and life would probably be a lot different.

It’s more difficult to grow a personal blog

Personal blogs are more difficult to scale.

For one, you usually have to write all the content (except guest posts) yourself.

Second, because your name is behind everything you publish, you’re less likely to take advantage of opportunities that are solely traffic driven.

You just become a lot more self-conscious about your writing. You start going through more and more rounds of editing before publishing. Or sometimes you work on a blog post for hours and decide that it’s not worthy of being published.

Instead of publishing to increase traffic, you start getting overly focused on “building your personal brand” through amazing content.

And as a result, over half your drafts will never get published.

With a niche site, you have more freedom to try out aggressive growth strategies.

For example, you might notice that you have built up an insanely high domain authority and are dominating the search results.

So you might decide to capitalize on this by hiring 30 writers to 30x your publishing volume.

This is something that could kill the audience for a blog like RankXL.

People would start asking, “Where the hell did Chris go? Who are these people?”

A niche site is much easier to sell.

A blog heavily tied around one person is difficult to sell in the future.

The buyers should know why the blog has such a devoted audience in the first place. It’s not the site, but who’s writing on the site.

If Pat Flynn sold Smart Passive Income and created a new blog, would you continue reading Smart Passive Income or move with him to his new blog?

No question, I would start following his new blog instead. I’d probably stick around SPI to see what the new owners do with it, but unless it was something extraordinary, I’d be gone.

A blog makes it easier to sell products.

Although it’s more difficult to scale or sell a personal blog, it’s a lot easier to make a lot of sales of high-priced products. Because a blog is centred around an influencer, they eventually build more and more trust with each piece of content they publish.

In fact, look at most of the big personal blogs out there. Almost every one of them sell a high priced online training course. Usually, they’re over $1000.

This is only possible because of the personal brand they built up, and this trust translates into sales whenever they release a product or service.

While it might be difficult or impossible to sell the site for a massive pay day, it’s easy to continue riding and building your influence into your old age selling your knowledge and products.

So should you build a blog or niche site?

With both strategies, it’s all about execution, and what you ultimately want to build. They both have their ups and downs.

Do you want to build a personal brand through a blog? Do you want to build an audience around you?

Or

Do you want to laser-focus on growing a single niche site to millions of visitors, and have a big exit one day when you sell the site off?

Why am I writing this right now?

It’s because this is what I’m actively thinking about and researching these days.

I’m going to be starting a new project – one that I’ll be working on as my main focus in 2017 and most likely for the next 3 to 5 years.

Currently, I’m leaning toward a niche site rather than a blog.

Building a personal brand doesn’t really excite me. Having my entire business revolve around selling training products or “building trust” around me doesn’t really get me motivated to work harder.

It doesn’t get me pumped up and eager to work in the morning.

You know what does?

Building a massive content business with rapid growth, seeing millions of unique visitors in my analytics, getting thousands of email subscribers collected per day, and making thousands in revenue per day.

And lastly, I just need to know that what I’m working on will have a big pay off. I can’t imagine working on building a site very passionately if there’s no potential for a big pay off.

Having a big exit one day is one of the biggest perks of working on a site. It’s what makes building niche sites so profitable. You don’t just work and work and work until you just decide to stop working on it.

You eventually decide to sell it, and you get rewarded for all the work you did with a giant paycheque.

For example, look at this site: The Wirecutter.

They review tech products, and make a commission each time someone clicks through and makes a purchase.

They were recently bought by The New York Times for $30 million after about 4 years working on the site.

Or what about a smaller blog like TreeHugger. They sold to Discovery Communications for $10 million after around 3 years of working on the site.

Now these are the kind of exits worth working towards. And it’s what I’ll be working towards myself.

Will I receive an offer from a company as large as The New York Times for 8 figures?

Realistically the chances are low.

But I certainly think it’s possible to get a 7-figure valuation within the next 3 to 5 years.

Leave a Reply

68 Comments

  • Reply Wazza February 3, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Hey Chris.
    Go with the niche site.
    You’re a bright guy and you’ll make it work.
    Would love to see it as a case study as you develop it
    Cheers

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      Thanks Wazza!

  • Reply Dain February 3, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Great article Chris. This is something I’ve grappled with for the past few months on whether or not to start a personal blog or a niche site. Your outlay for the pros and cons for each is pretty much spot on. I do wonder though if there are any examples of people who have been able to sell a personal blog for lots of money.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      Thanks Dain! Yeah, something I tried to research myself, but wasn’t able to find much on the subject.

      • Reply Shaun February 5, 2017 at 7:33 am

        Hi guys, there are some but one that I can think of now is seonick.com.

        • Reply Chris Lee February 6, 2017 at 12:44 pm

          Ooh, yes that’s a good example. Thanks for sharing Shaun!

  • Reply Jessica Parla February 3, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Chris,

    You made a great point. The reason we are following this “Blog”, RankXL, is because we know who is behind this, YOU. So if you sell this to someone else, your audience probably won’t be that loyal UNLESS you are part of the new team.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      Haha, thanks Jessica. I don’t have any plans to sell this site πŸ™‚

  • Reply Dennies February 3, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Hey Chris,
    I’m also starting one authority site this year from scratch. πŸ™‚

    All the best to you!

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks Dennies! Best to you too πŸ™‚

  • Reply G. P. Gautam February 3, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    After reading this post. I’d say, the blog has a personal impact on it. And a niche site has content impact.The niche site can develop itself as a brand but not a blog. That’s why my own site named, http://www.tutorialpandit.com, growing as a niche site not blog. Thank you Chris to detect this different.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks for sharing GP πŸ™‚

  • Reply Dinesh February 3, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Great article. learnt many things. thanks
    I came to your site for the first time and it is really good. subscribed for your list.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks Dinesh!

  • Reply Theodore Nwangene February 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    This is a totally different article Chris,

    Honestly, this is the first time I’m reading about this topic. Never knew the different between the two until now and I’m nodding my head in agreement as I’m reading.

    Definitely, I come to Rank XL because I personally like the owner (you), and like you rightly pointed out, I’ll quit coming to this place the moment its owned by someone else.

    From the look of things, niche sites is the way to go right now, I’m happy I’m already working on it. The 2 sites I told you about are already ranking below 50 on Google for many long time keywords even though I’ve not build any link.

    I’m happy you’re be starting another niche site afresh, but will you share your process publicly?

    Thanks for this update Chris, good to hear from you again πŸ™‚

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Awesome, thank you Theodore! Not sure about that yet. Great to hear from you again too πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandon Cox February 3, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Chris, now THAT makes sense!!! I love your explanation. A niche site is built on content and a blog is built on an influencer. Such clarity.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      Thanks Brandon! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply Marcin Chruszcz February 3, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Do You try paid traffic and make sales funnels ? Some like digitalmarketing.com or maybe guru internet marketing

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      Not at the moment. I’m not great at paid traffic.

  • Reply Jacob Merkley February 3, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Chris – Fantastic article as always. I’m curious, with a niche site, the “author” still has a name and bio on some “about me or us” page right? Or would they steer away from that and just have “about ____(brand name)”?

    I don’t believe my website would be considered a blog, as it’s not necessarily tied to me; however, I do have my name listed on the about me page and as the author of posts…so would that make me a blog by default? or Niche?

    Maybe I think I’m a niche site, but people are actually tying it to me… it makes me wonder. Just curious what your thoughts are!

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks Jacob πŸ™‚ I think you just have to think in terms of how tied everything on the site is to a single author. It’s totally fine to have an about me section or list yourself as an author.

  • Reply ahmed February 3, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    idk why you don’t blog more often :/

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:31 pm

      Hehe, working on it πŸ™‚

  • Reply Richard V. Landman February 3, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Hey Chris i love to read your blog, i was also confused about the niche & blog. Now you make me clear πŸ™‚
    I just wanted to know when will you start your niche sites, and what will be your strategies ?

    • Reply Chris Lee February 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Glad it helped Richard πŸ™‚ Same as everything I’ve been writing about here and in my course.

  • Reply Filan February 3, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Hey Chris. The bit about WireCutter and TreeHugger exits caught my interest.

    Can you write something deeper about this just like what you did with eHow? I want to know more about how did the sites do before the exit (traffic, content, team, editorial flow, etc.) so I can work my website towards that point.

    Great article by the way.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 4, 2017 at 1:04 am

      Thanks, yeah that’s a good idea πŸ™‚

  • Reply Angela February 3, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Hey Chris, this is a very timely post for me because I’ve been seriously thinking about starting a blog to document my niche site journey. I’ve been getting good results with my niche sites in the past few months and liked the idea of sharing my experiences. However, you’re absolutely right in saying it’s going to take a long time to build a blog and my reputation. I wish I had plenty of time but I don’t. I will take your advice and work on niche sites exclusively (at least for this year). I’m also thinking of flipping niche sites once it gets to a certain level.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 4, 2017 at 1:22 am

      Thanks Angela! Let me know if you do start a blog πŸ™‚

  • Reply Rahul February 4, 2017 at 2:01 am

    8 figures? Nah, I think your future niche site will be in 9 figures.. I believe one fine day we all will hear this from you.. “Sold my niche site for X hundred million dollars”.. replace X with the figure of your choice (9 is it?)

    • Reply Chris Lee February 4, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      Hahaha, thanks Rahul πŸ˜€

  • Reply Colin Glover February 4, 2017 at 4:00 am

    Thanks for that clarity Chris. The 2 can go hand in hand to some degree. The blog like this one helps to engender trust because the author has exposed themselves. The blog can then guide the reader to the niche site and carry over that trust as long as its seen to be in the same vein of trust. Obviously the blog would only be a small part of the source of traffic otherwise a future buyer may not be interested.

    The niche site could be sold off and replaced with another one served by the same blog and author. Its all in the flow.

    Cheers

    • Reply Chris Lee February 4, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      That’s a really interesting point Colin. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Kashif February 4, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Being a solopreneur, I prefer niche sites with every green content. They may take more time to conceive and deliver but they are easier to maintain, due to less frequent updates, and easier to monetize and dispose (sell) than a blog.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 4, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      Agree πŸ™‚

  • Reply Tung Tran February 5, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Yup I’m all about that 7 figure exit too Chris πŸ˜› Great article!

    • Reply Chris Lee February 6, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      Haha, thanks Tung πŸ™‚

      I’m loving your blog’s new homepage, btw!

      • Reply Tung February 8, 2017 at 12:02 am

        Thanks πŸ˜› I just revamped my About page, start here and resources page too πŸ˜€

        • Reply Chris Lee February 8, 2017 at 1:06 am

          Awesome πŸ™‚ I love how you’re growing CloudLiving. Keep up the great work!

  • Reply Vikram February 6, 2017 at 12:22 am

    That’s a simple but very thoughtful viewpoint.
    Glad to be subscribed to your list.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 6, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      Thank you Vikram!

  • Reply Kannan February 8, 2017 at 3:15 am

    Hey Chris,

    I found your blog a week before through Google search and I read all your posts in 4days with spending around 4-5hrs a day on your blog. Great blog for a new bee like me. I love your strategies especially youtube curation, Wikipedia links, broken links and Getting PBN backlinks.

    Could you do a favor like write posts on How to getting followers on StumbleUpon and How to get upvotes & growing Reddit profiles?

    Because I was posting my post links on Reddit almost 4months daily but I never get a single upvote. I don’t know why it is.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 9, 2017 at 10:19 pm

      Thanks Kannan πŸ™‚ That’s flattering.

      Reddit is tough, since any sort of self promotion usually will not go well. If you want to add a link back to your site, you have to make your comment/post super helpful.

  • Reply Iqbal February 8, 2017 at 5:21 am

    Hi Chris,

    Inspiratif Article.
    Because of your blog, now, i’m making my first authority website ( not blog ). start really from the scratch.
    if you have any advice for “The Starter” like me, i’m really thanksfull.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 9, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      That’s awesome to hear Iqbal!

  • Reply Emmerey Rose February 16, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Very informative Chris. Personally, I think a blog has more impact to me. And just like you mentioned, I’m reading this blog because I know I can learn a lot from the man behind this. From you! But you do you Chris. Whatever makes you happy πŸ™‚ All the best!

    • Reply Chris Lee February 24, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      Aww thank you Emmerey πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jeremy February 24, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I think I’m late to the party, we started out as niche sites and eventually we evolve into the authority site, that is what I understand. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Chris Lee February 24, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      Thanks for sharing Jeremy!

  • Reply Francis John March 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    I’ve only read two of your emails (100% open rate:)), you seem fit for a niche site. You have a lot of knowledge and your content carry a lot of value. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Chris Lee March 16, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Haha thanks Francis! Appreciate that.

  • Reply Manoj March 11, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Hi Chris,

    Excellent writing. I learned so many things about niche sites from your post. Go ahead with your works.

    Thank you so much.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks Manoj!

  • Reply Delwar Jahan March 14, 2017 at 5:09 am

    The more I was reading from the top, the better the understanding. And I started to love the niche idea.

    I think you need a personal blog for branding and then you can make several niche sites for your business. I would rather spend less time on the personal blog now.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 16, 2017 at 11:56 am

      Glad it was helpful Delwar. Thanks for reading.

  • Reply Fran March 17, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    I’m actually surprised that those sites you listed are niche sites! Aren’t those sort of more a viral site or online publication? It doesn’t seem like it would be passive income from only Adsense anymore if they’re publishing articles multiple times a day. Wouldn’t a niche site be more like allfreesewing.com?

    • Reply Chris Lee March 17, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      Of course they are πŸ™‚ They are big niche sites, but that’s what we’re trying to build.

  • Reply David March 20, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    Great article, Chris.

    I’ve read articles on this topic before, but you really dive deep in this one. Awesome!

    A 7-figure payday would be pretty sweet πŸ™‚

    • Reply Chris Lee March 30, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Thanks David πŸ™‚

  • Reply Lenin Zapata March 22, 2017 at 12:25 am

    Hello, thank you very much for the article has been inspiring for me since you have exposed your feelings of what you really want to do.
    True, I have a site that has 1M visitors per month, but it is only from my country and it is Spanish speaking. I am about to create the same system but for the USA country where there may be more traffic and the CPC is much higher than my poor country.
    Thanks once again.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 30, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Thanks for reading Lenin! Congratulations on growing a site to 1M/month!!

  • Reply Adebayo Oluwole March 27, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    This is an eye opener for anyone that wants to start a blog. What most people do is just to start a blog without defining their objective. I must confess, I am equally affected. I like the way you always pure out your heart so that others can learn from you. Just as you have decided, I think better think towards building a niche website. But from your analysis, this might require hiring other people.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 30, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks Adebayo! Glad you’re enjoying πŸ™‚

  • Reply Pavan March 27, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Excellent clarification Chris.

    For the most part of my blogging days, I’ve been wondering about what’s suitable for me. You’re making some truly unique and informational points here.

    Already loving your content. Subscribed.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 30, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      Awesome! Thanks Pavan πŸ™‚

  • Reply Nilabh March 28, 2017 at 3:30 am

    Hello Chris,

    I would like to thank you for this article, where I now understood clear distinction between a “Blog” and a “Niche” sites. Post is written with deep research and with facts.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 30, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks Nilabh!!