Ok, after reading part 2 you should now have a bunch of potential niche site ideas. Now comes the important process of analyzing your niche ideas in more detail to decide on the best one to move forward with.
As always, my aim is to keep this as simple as possible, but not simpler than it should be.
Whilst you definitely don’t want to get stuck in the dreaded dream-killing analysis paralysis doomland, which stops so many people from starting their own business, when it comes to building a successful site the research phase is a crucial part and not something you should avoid if you want to truly stack the odds in your favor.
There’s no doubt in my mind that my most successful site which earns me a six figure passive income only did so well because I put in a lot of time to research a good niche and plan my strategy from day 1.
You may already be quite set on a particular niche, but no matter how confident you are about it I highly recommend you go through this extra research to give yourself an edge.
Also, keep in mind that there’s no black and white answer on whether a particular niche is worth pursuing or not and in the end you’ve got to do your own objective thinking and consideration. What I share here are just some guidelines to start with.
To be honest you could almost make any niche work for you if you have good strategies and you work for it. But if you want to give yourself every chance to create a side income with a new site then it’s very wise to take your time with picking your niche and deciding on your approach before diving in.
Ok, let’s get into it. Call me crazy but I find niche research exciting because you never know what opportunities you could stumble upon whilst doing it 🙂
Niche Criteria #1: Interest Level
This is the first thing I would think about when choosing your niche, because as I said in the introduction to building niche sites, these days you want to focus on creating larger, more authoritative sites that are ideally updated with new content from time to time.
If your topic bores you to tears, it may be an uphill battle to do that and to have the patience to stick with your chosen topic long-term.
A good question to ask yourself is:
Can you see yourself putting in the time and effort to create at least 50 content-rich, quality pages (ideally a lot more)?
Remember, as I mentioned in the introduction to this guide, we’re not here to create a micro site with only a handful of pages. You want to create as much good content as you possibly can in your niche.
The more pages you have, and therefore the more keywords you target, the more opportunity you have to build traffic, naturally be found for many different long-tail keyword combinations, and to become somewhat of an authority in your niche.
My best site that has earned me a great income for a long time now is a little over 100 pages, but had I only created 50 or so pages my guess is that the site wouldn’t receive anywhere near as much traffic as it has.
But it also depends on the niche too, because if you have a very targeted, narrow niche you may not need as many pages because A) there may only be so much you can talk about within that niche, and B) if there’s not many competing information sites on that particular niche then it may be easy to dominate that space even with a smaller site.
Creating a niche site ain’t a fly-by-night, get-rich-quick operation (good luck finding a legal version of that) – you’ve got to treat it like the business that it is and constantly improve it.
Yes, once your site is established you can take your foot off the gas a little and reap the passive income rewards that you deserve from the hard work you’ve put in to build your site, but depending on how competitive your niche is you’ll have to update your site to some degree if you want it to last over the long-haul.
Gone are the days where you can slap up a content site and just leave it alone for months and months, or even years, without any repercussions (could still be possible, but don’t bank on it).
What About Outsourcing Content-Creation?
You could outsource the content creation if you really want to, but I would recommend most people create the content themselves for two reasons:
- You have 100% control and can ensure that the content is exactly what your market needs and wants and that it meets a certain quality standard.
- It may be tricky to find quality, reliable and consistent writers in your specific niche that delivers exactly what you want.
My Thoughts on Passion VS Profits
Whilst the ideal situation is to pursue a topic that is both a passion of yours AND something that is profitable, if you choose a topic a lot more for the profitability aspect rather than your passion it, there’s nothing wrong with that and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make it work.
But, that’s only IF you’re quite self-motivated and you have the patience to learn your topic well enough to be able to offer value in that space.
My first site, the one that continues to this day to generate a very comfortable passive income, was chosen a lot more for the profit potential than for my interest in it. Sure, I did have some interest in the subject, but not anything close to a real burning passion.
I made it work because I was very motivated to leave my 9-5 day job and achieve a certain level of freedom, so if you have a similar strong drive and you want to pick a topic mainly for its profit potential – I’d so go for it!
Plus, when you start to see some real results, your interest will naturally increase and it’ll fuel your motivation further. Who knows you may even start to really love your topic. You can always pursue your real passions later once you’ve got some income coming in.
But yeah, of course the best scenario is always to pick a topic that is not only profitable but that you also have quite a lot of interest in. Just don’t blindly follow the common advice “just do what you love and the money will follow” as it’s not so black and white (some topics won’t ever have much profit potential).
Niche Criteria #2: Demand
Another key criteria to look into is whether or not the niche market you’re considering is large enough. Remember, you want to pick a niche that isn’t too big yet isn’t so narrow that there’s little chance of sustaining a business in that space.
You can get an insight into the overall demand of a niche idea by doing a little keyword research. To the complete newbies out there – don’t worry it’s quite straightforward.
What you’re specifically checking is whether or not there are plenty of related keywords within your niche with decent enough demand.
In other words, are there enough people searching Google for related keyword phrases within your niche so that there’s a large enough pool of potential traffic that you can get a slice of?
Remember that whilst there are different ways to gain traffic to your site (I’ll get into that later), a major part of creating a content-based website is to optimize it to attract as much free search engine traffic as possible. A big part of that is to target specific keyword phrases on each of your site’s pages.
But don’t get caught up with keyword research as it’s just one part of SEO in this day and age. I’ll cover what you need to know about SEO in a later part of this guide when its needed.
Using Google’s Free Tool to Estimate Demand
Google’s Keyword Planner is a solid placae to start because it’s free and easy to use, but keep in mind that the results you get using this tool (or pretty much any other keyword tool for that matter) will only bring you an estimate of search numbers.
Don’t get caught up in the numbers – just use these tools to get a general sense of the overall demand of your niche and to compare the demand for different niches.
Head on over to the Google Keyword Planner (you need an Adwords account to use it – it’s free to join and don’t worry you don’t need to actually place an Adwords ad to use the tool) which is listed under the “Tools” tab from the main Adwords dashboard.
Click on “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category” and enter the main top-level keyword for your niche (or a few different main keywords separated by commas). Say that you’re thinking about starting a site about treadmills (such as buying guides, reviews, exercise tips, etc) – you would enter “treadmill” (minus the quotations) and Google will bring up all sorts of keywords related to that including plural forms.
You want to keep the default settings as they are, but check to see that under the “Targeting” settings the location is set to “All Locations” because in most cases you’ll want to reach a worldwide audience with your site:
Click on “Get ideas” and you’ll see two lists of keywords come up, with the default being “Ad group ideas”. You’ll want to click over to the 2nd tab named “Keyword ideas” though because that’s where you’ll see the specific keywords (the “ad group ideas” list groups keywords into a bunch which isn’t as useful for our purposes here).
The column you want to focus on is the “Average monthly searches” column, which is the estimated demand/search volume of each keyword per month:
Don’t worry about the “competition” column – that only represents an estimate of the amount of Adwords advertisers for that keyword, and not the actual keyword competition, so it’s not really useful for this. There are other ways to estimate how competitive it will be to rank for certain keywords which I’ll get to in the next criteria.
What you’re basically looking for is whether there are enough related keywords within your niche that have sufficient demand numbers.
Another way to put it is you’re trying to get a sense of whether or not there’s a big enough need/want for information/advice/tips/buying guides/reviews/etc for this particular topic.
There’s no set number that makes for “decent” demand, but personally I’d want to see that there are at least a couple dozen of keywords with demand in the thousands, and plenty of keywords with demand in the hundreds (technically called “long tail” keywords).
As for your main keyword that you should optimize your homepage for, there’s no set number that you should be looking for. Back in the day it was important that your main keyword had at least a certain number of demand, but these days since keyword research isn’t everything it matters a lot less. What I believe matters more than the amount of demand for your main keyword is the demand across the board for all the keywords in your niche.
If you want to get a better sense of demand, and to search for even more keyword ideas within your niche (Google’s tool won’t bring up everything) then I’d suggest using a premium keyword tool.
Long Tail Pro and Wordtracker are what I use and recommend at this point in time. In the past I’ve used other tools, but I personally like these 2 the best and they have huge credibility in the internet marketing world so they’re a safe bet. It’s always good to use multiple sources for keyword research, and I’ll likely write more about how to use these tools in future posts on this blog.
Again, to the hammer the point home, you don’t want to get caught up with keyword numbers because for now we’re just estimating the overall demand for information in your niche. What’s even better than keyword research is using your own judgement and manual analysis of your niche to decide whether there’s a need or want for information/advice/tips/buying guides/reviews/whatever.
I’ll come back to keyword research later in this guide when we need it.
Niche Criteria #3: Competition
In general competition isn’t a bad thing – it shows there is a proven market for your niche. These days almost every topic under the sun will have at least some sort of competition.
But when trying to build a niche content site with the main purpose being to attract as much organic search traffic as possible – you don’t want to delve into a topic that is TOO competitive otherwise it’s going be very tough to compete and gain any sort of decent traffic.
An ideal niche is one with decent demand but low-medium competition.
Yes, of course it’s possible to do well in a highly competitive niche if you work hard enough, have good strategies, and are patient. But that’s not what building a niche site is all about – you want to really narrow in on a very focused topic so that you can compete.
Checking Keyword Competition
Keyword research comes in handy to get a sense of the competition for your topic and how hard it will be to compete.
Are there are plenty of keywords (with decent demand) that also don’t have very stiff competition in the top 10 google search results?
You want to aim for the top 10 results when targeting a keyword because the vast majority of click-thrus occur on page numero uno (think about it..how often do you actually go to page 2 of a Google search?).
So what makes for “tough competition” in the top 10 results? Large brands, education/government sites, sites with tons of backlinks (other sites linking to them), large and highly established authority sites/blogs. These aren’t impossible to compete with for search placings, but if you test a whole bunch of keywords in your niche and most of the top 10 results are these types of sites then it may be tough. Not impossible though.
Long Tail Pro comes in handy for this as it conveniently brings up data of the current top 10 results for any particular keyword. Wordtracker is another tool that has a decent competition metric that estimates how hard it would be to rank for a certain keyword.
Don’t base your decision on whether a niche is too competitive or not solely by looking at keyword competition. Keywords are just one factor to consider, and you should also use your own judgement and do your own manual research on what the competition is like.
Search around for already established niche content sites/blogs and get a sense of who’s dominating the main search terms in your niche. Take a look at these sites and note their overall quality and quantity of content, whether they’re covering everything in the niche and covering it well, how much of an authority they are and how established they are, how many pages they have, how big their communities are, etc.
There’s no exact formula on working out whether or not your competition is beatable or not. You’ve got to use your own judgement and try to get a sense of how hard it will be to establish yourself in that particular space.
Think About Your Unique Angle
There are many ways to make your site stand out from other sites in your niche and make people want to visit and revisit yours:
- Can you do things better, differently, more effectively, or make things easier for people?
- Do competing sites in your niche lack quality? Do they lack quantity? Are they incomplete? Do they lack polish? Do they not cover certain important topics within your niche? Do they lack good marketing? Do all the information sites/blogs in your space just plain suck?
- Can you come at your topic from a different angle that isn’t being done? Such as gearing your site to specific user such as beginners, a certain age group, a certain type of person?
- Can you leverage your own personality or personal experiences to gain credibility, authority, or connect with people in your niche on a deeper level creating trust?
- Is there a lot of information in your niche but not a complete and in-depth resource on it that covers it entirely from A-Z?
If your niche doesn’t have many competing information sites and blogs, standing out won’t be as important because you’ll be more free to attack the topic however you wish and hopefully do well. But it’s still wise to consider these sorts of questions anyway.
Niche Criteria #4: Monetization Opportunities
The next main criteria to decide on a good, profitable niche is to check for good opportunities to turn your visitors into an income. You gotta pay the bills somehow.
Are there affiliate programs to promote related (quality) products in your niche?
Start by looking for related products on large marketplaces like Amazon and Clickbank. I covered this in part 2 where you brainstormed for niche ideas, so if you used Amazon for instance to find a topic idea then you should already know if there are products you can promote on there.
Amazon’s affiliate program is great despite their commissions not being the highest going around. They’re very reliable and convert well because of the huge trust factor people have with Amazon. They sell literally any type of physical product under the sun so if your niche lends well to people buying physical products, chances are promoting stuff on Amazon will be a good fit for your site.
Or if you have previous experience in your niche as a paying customer, look for a private affiliate programs to promote those products by searching around their site for something mentioning an affiliate program or becoming an “associate” (that’s what some companies call it).
If you plan on selling your own product such as an eBook, online course, audio program, coaching, or even your own physical products, I would look to see whether there are already products like this within your niche which is a good indication that people are willing to spend money in that space. If you’re new, definitely stick with affiliate marketing, at least for now, because it’s a lot more simple.
As for Google Adsense (placing relevant Google ads on your site), consider it a possible additional stream of income on your site but never make that your primary or sole strategy. Adsense pays you everyone someone clicks on an ad, and the amount varies from niche to niche.
Using Google’s keyword tool you can check roughly how much people are paying for related keywords in your niche to get a sense of how much you can profit with Adsense, but I would never base your niche decision on this. You need a TON of traffic to make good money with Adsense.
Niche Criteria #5: Evergreen Niche?
Lastly, you want to make sure the topic you get into isn’t a fad or something that will likely significantly drop in popularity over time. You want to get into an evergreen niche that will be around forever, or one that will definitely still be around in a few years, otherwise your hard work may be in vain.
You can use the Google trends tool on the main keywords in your niche to get an idea of whether your topic is increasing or decreasing in popularity over time, but also use your own judgement to avoid “hot” or “trending” topics that will likely drop off.
Choose Your Best Niche Idea
Put all of your niche ideas to the test by thinking about the above factors, and decide on which idea you want to move forward with. To sum it up, in general a good potential niche topic should tick most, if not all, of these boxes:
- Enough overall search demand within the niche so you can build enough traffic to sustain a business
- Not too much competition (or you have a solid plan to stand out and the patient work ethic to back it up)
- At least 1-2 good money-making opportunities within that niche such as products to promote, or the opportunity to create your own product
- A topic that you have at least a decent level of knowledge OR interest to learn more
- An evergreen topic that will stand the test of time (not a fad)
Once again, don’t rush your niche research as it’s a crucial stage and can make or break your success down the track. Picking a good niche, and one that is going to suit you, is important.
In saying that, if you go through this part and you’re not 100% sure on your idea – I recommend you continue into the next part where we’ll plan your niche site structure and keywords in more detail. Reading that part may help you to dig out your particular niche, or to think about things from a different perspective and give you an ‘aha’ moment.
Here it is when you’re ready: