One of the key decisions to make when starting up a blog or website is the topic or niche and this decision should never be rushed. In the first instance, choose a topic you are passionate about, experienced in (to some extent) and want to learn and write about. There are a number of ways to help you research your chosen topic or niche and make your blog or website stand out from the crowd.
Some topics and niches are extremely competitive, possibly even over-subscribed, while others have little competition. Often with competition comes interest and is a key to what people want to read. The decision on which topic to choose tends to fall with what interests you, but if you are torn between two topics, you may want to have a look at examples of similar blogs or websites and research the market. Can you offer something new in a crowded market? Do other similar sites make money? What domain names are left for you to use?
When considering and researching your niche, you should look at the opportunities for monetizing your website/blog. Researching similar sites is important here to see their scope for advertising etc.
Having a good quality blog/website with interesting content and design is one thing, but its success is limited without an engaged audience. Having followers who re-visit and help spread the word about your site on your behalf is an asset. When it comes to audience, look beyond visitor numbers and aim to find a niche that will attract a passionate audience who will really get involved and become a fan of what you offer.
If you are looking to sustain a website for many years to come, choose a topic/niche that can grow and develop with you and ensure that there is plenty to write about. Here, you will need to find a balance between finding something that is current and popular and also has longevity.
Part of the research process when choosing a niche or topic, is to see how others spread the word about their website/blog and how you can emulate this. There are a number of web communities, social media sites and forums available on a whole host of topics and it is worth having a look at what is available, prior to launching your site.
To ensure that your site ranks high on Google, it needs fresh content. There are a number of ways to be kept updated on news about your particularly topic of choice. Researching in the 21st century is a relatively quick and easy task, and does not take hours of reading through books and copying notes. Online tools can help you. Google has a number of useful tools, including Google search (one of the most obvious search engines), Google Blog Search (blog specific), Google News (up-to-date news), Google Trends (which shows you the level of interest in a topic and the hottest trends) and Google Alerts (alerts you when there is new content about your topic). Other research tools include Yahoo Buzz Index (similar to Google Trends), PR distribution websites such as PRWeb and PR Buzz and Technorati (similar to Google Blog Search).