How to Find a Unifying Theme For Your Blog

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Everyone from Copyblogger to my friend Jeff Goins says that one of the best way for your blog to be successful is to find a unifying theme to write about.

your blog's focus by pink sherbert photography

For example, this blog focuses on how to improve your creative writing. Pioneer Woman's blog is about how to be creative in the kitchen no matter where you're from. Gary Vaynerchuck's Wine Library video blog is about, you guessed it, wine.

And you? What is your blog about?

So many of my friends who write blogs are struggling to answer this question. When I first started blogging, I struggled to answer this question. And the first thing I want to tell you is that it's okay to not know what your blog is about.

What Is It About?

When you first start blogging, don't worry too much about what you're writing. Instead, focus on getting words on the (digital) page, and start to get a feel for the form.

Blogging, like writing short stories, poetry, and novels, has its own rules. When you first start, the most important thing is to learn how to express yourself within the framework of those rules.

Then, once you've written say 100 posts, it's time for a blog review. Here's how it works:

1. Read your blog from beginning to end.

Start with your very first post and read until you get to the end.

I have been wanting to do this for months, and yesterday I finally found the time to get it done. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the process a lot more than I thought I would. It's always easier to review and edit than it is to write the first draft.

2. As you read, look for similar topics.

What do you write about a lot?

  • Books
  • Celebrity gossip
  • Your kids
  • Your faith
  • Writing
  • General life

On a piece of scratch paper, write down a few common topics that keep coming up. This will help you focus later.

3. Look for similar tone.

As I was doing my review, I noticed my writing has shifted from straight teaching to a more experimental, creative tone. Some of my most artistic, least dogmatic posts have generated the most response. Going forward, I plan to write more in this tone.

A good way to think of tone is attitude. What attitude are you bringing to your posts?

  • Angry
  • Cheerful
  • Iconoclastic
  • Musing
  • Sarcastic
  • Whimsical
  • Funny

Also, which tone do people respond to through by commenting or sharing through facebook and twitter? As you notice similarities in tone, write on your scratch paper, “I am… [insert tone].”

4. Last, look for posts with a signature style.

About a month ago, I wrote a post that was only 200 words long. At the time, my posts were averaging 400 to 800 words long. Writing such a short post was a bit of a risk, but surprisingly, the reaction to the post was overwhelming.

Look for posts that are unique, that you took a risk on. Could you develop your personal blogging “brand” on posts like these?

5. Test it.

After you follow these steps, try writing a new post using the things you've learned. If you find that you wrote about puppies a lot, are frequently sarcastic in tone, and got a great response when you wrote a 3,000 word treatise with lots of pictures, then you should write a 3,000 word sarcastic post about puppies.

Well, maybe that won't be a very good post, but you get the idea.

PRACTICE

Let's start small. Go back to the very beginnings of your blog, and read the first post. Then, skip ahead several posts and read that one. Then, skip ahead and read another.

Read five random posts throughout your blog's history. This should only take about fifteen minutes.

As you read, think about the questions above.

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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21 Comments

  1. Brian Alonzo

    I agree with you. And then I don’t.
    I think a key element in blogging is understanding the why.

    I struggled with trying to blog a theme… then after about three weeks of writers constipation I shit my pants and in the process tore the rectum of my confidence as a writer.

    In short, keeping up with a blog became a pain in the ass.

    Then I thought about it some more and decided to write whatever the hell I wanted to write about. I am happy now. My blog very well may fall off the face of the analytic terrain, but I’m happier with it now…

    So I think this post is doctrine for any writer, as long as they have asked the question, Why?

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Mmm… that’s really good, Bryan. I like that.

      On the other hand, you’re blogging on brianalonzo.com. The blog is, in the end, about you and the way your twisted, shameless mind works. Maybe that’s all it has to be about.

      Reply
  2. Brian Alonzo

    I agree with you. And then I don’t.
    I think a key element in blogging is understanding the why.

    I struggled with trying to blog a theme… then after about three weeks of writers constipation I shit my pants and in the process tore the rectum of my confidence as a writer.

    In short, keeping up with a blog became a pain in the ass.

    Then I thought about it some more and decided to write whatever the hell I wanted to write about. I am happy now. My blog very well may fall off the face of the analytic terrain, but I’m happier with it now…

    So I think this post is doctrine for any writer, as long as they have asked the question, Why?

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Mmm… that’s really good, Bryan. I like that.

      On the other hand, you’re blogging on brianalonzo.com. The blog is, in the end, about you and the way your twisted, shameless mind works. Maybe that’s all it has to be about.

      Reply
  3. Katie Axelson

    I love to go back and read a few consecutive posts just to see themes and what was troubling me at the time. It’s a cool way to look back in time and see what God was teaching and what I’ve learned.

    I like the method you suggestion for keeping track of themes, attitudes, etc. It’s something that I’ve been meaning to do.

    Katie

    Reply
  4. Katie Axelson

    I love to go back and read a few consecutive posts just to see themes and what was troubling me at the time. It’s a cool way to look back in time and see what God was teaching and what I’ve learned.

    I like the method you suggestion for keeping track of themes, attitudes, etc. It’s something that I’ve been meaning to do.

    Katie

    Reply
  5. Eileen

    Some good tips, Joe. We all have things we are deeply passionate about and that will come through in our writing. I once wrote down 2 questions…perhaps it was from your blog or maybe Jeff’s. What excites you? What bothers you about the world? Those are some great starting questions and we often will find we blog quite a bit around these questions.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Eileen 🙂 That smacks of Jeff.

      Reply
  6. Eileen

    Some good tips, Joe. We all have things we are deeply passionate about and that will come through in our writing. I once wrote down 2 questions…perhaps it was from your blog or maybe Jeff’s. What excites you? What bothers you about the world? Those are some great starting questions and we often will find we blog quite a bit around these questions.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Eileen 🙂 That smacks of Jeff.

      Reply
  7. Casey

    Now I don’t feel like such a dork for feeling clueless what I should be blogging about. This post gives me permission to find out. I really appreciate The Write Practice, Joe. Thanks for creating it.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Sure thing, Casey. It’ll come with time. Besides, there is no SHOULD. You’re not getting paid to blog. So do it for the pleasure of it.

      Reply
  8. Casey

    Now I don’t feel like such a dork for feeling clueless what I should be blotting about. This post gives me permission to find out. I really appreciate The Write Practice, Joe. Thanks for creating it.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Sure thing, Casey. It’ll come with time. Besides, there is no SHOULD. You’re not getting paid to blog. So do it for the pleasure of it.

      Reply
  9. Jeremy Statton

    Thanks, Joe. Poke the Box. Be Weird. Lot’s of good stuff.

    Reply
  10. Jeremy Statton

    Thanks, Joe. Poke the Box. Be Weird. Lot’s of good stuff.

    Reply
  11. Lauren

    Thanks for the great suggestions. I’ve been struggling with this for months. I’ve written over 400 posts, and I still don’t know what my blog is about.

    Reply

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